14-year-old Molly says “I’ll fight for a better Irish health system for children.”
By Elizabeth Doherty
A 14-YEAR-OLD girl is “fighting for other children” with an innovative campaign to introduce scoliosis screening in to Irish schools after she has endured a two-year wait along with many other children, for treatment.
Molly Nolan, from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, was a sporty young girl, throwing herself in to running, swimming, football, camogie and swimming.
Suddenly in October 2013, when Molly was 12, her world was turned upside-down with a sudden and terrible pain running down her spine.
Mother Avril said: “My daughter was in sixth class in primary school. Our Jeep was rear-ended outside the school and Molly got out of the car and complained about her back.
“I thought it was just from the sudden impact so I sent Molly into school for the day.
“When I returned at 2pm for my youngest child, Molly came up to the office to say her back was still in agony.
“I looked at her back and noticed what I thought was a swelling on the right hand side of her back.”
Avril brought her daughter to a GP, who diagnosed Molly with Scoliosis. She was referred to a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and put on a waiting list for surgery.
The sporty schoolgirl had pre-operative treatment in March 2014 at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, and one more appointment in May last year
But ever since, Avril says “every appointment since has been cancelled and postponed to a later date.”
The mother says that as she grew increasingly frustrated, watching her child suffer, contacted Crumlin Hospital in July 2014 to ask when she would have the vital op.
“I was told that Molly would never have her surgery in Crumlin. From looking at the waiting lists, she would be constantly pushed down, due to amount of critical children on the list.
“Someone who is so bad that the curve is having a constant impact on their lungs and heart, would have priority.
“Therefore Molly would have to get to this stage to be operated on in Crumlin.”
Avril grew increasingly concerned that her daughter’s condition would deteriorate and that any corrective surgery, if delayed much longer, would mean it would never be “100 per cent.”
It seems incredible to think that after a two-year wait and suffering such pain, Molly is now a child who will have the best chance of health with private health care.
Her mother said, because the HSE system does not meet the needs of children like Molly quickly enough, private health care is the best option – and this has only become feasible now, when she is 14.
“I have health care, so I can bring Molly privately to have her surgery done,” Avril said. “Molly is to have her surgery in May 2016.”
Operations to repair a curvature of the spine normally include the use of hooks and screw to fuse the spine and to ensure it does not move, to prevent the curvature from progressing.
Once the bone fuses the curve cannot get any worse.
The procedure is only recommended when a child’s curve is greater than 40 to 45 degrees.
Despite living a life that has inevitably been affected by bouts of pain, the teenager has never let it get her down.
At her tender age she knew the system was wrong and set about trying to help other children just like her, who may be at the start of a gruelling journey and wait for treatment.
“Last year when Molly was in first year in secondary school, she entered a science competition.
“Her project was Scoliosis in Children and she went on to win a Medical Award for her Project.
“Her science teacher asked her to enter her project into the BT Young Scientist of the Year competition.
“Her project was a continuation of her original project, but the main thing was to raise awareness and get Scoliosis screening introduced to all secondary schools.”
The teenager has worked tirelessly on the campaign. She carried out her own research, finding that she was not alone in her long wait.
The waiting lists for first appointments with a consultant after being diagnosed, is up to two years.
Avril said: “The cost of braces are covered in Crumlin hospital but not in Temple street.
“Waiting lists for surgery is over two years. The list is endless, but Molly a 14-year-old girl who is awaiting surgery herself, will fight for every other child with Scoliosis.”
The teenager has started a hard copy petition and an online version.
She has visited schools to give presentations on scoliosis, she’s handed out leaflets and she has spread the word verbally and online via a Facebook page.
“What started off as just a science project has grown into a personal project that Molly intends to follow through even after BT science competition is over.
“Through her own personal experience and research, Molly has discovered how bad the health service is in Ireland.
“As Molly’s mother, I couldn’t be any prouder of her than I am right now, to see her stand up in front of a class of 11 and 12-year-olds and give a power point presentation that she made herself.
“She answers questions from pupils and it’s just amazing. She’s even given an interview to a local radio station.
“I look at my daughter and it’s just astounding.”
Molly, the eldest child of the family she has two younger brothers and a sister.
Her mother thinks her campaigning spirit and her ability to get up and go, is down to a nature she had been born with.
“Molly was always a very confident and out-going girl. She tried her hand at everything, from running to swimming, football, camogie, piano, singing, hip-hop, and ballet.
“She eventually settled on camogie, swimming and ballet.
“She joined the local swimming club and swam competitively for over a year, before she was diagnosed with scoliosis.
“She continued for a few months after her diagnoses, but found the tumble turns and some of the strokes hurt her back.
“But she still swims for enjoyment but Molly left the club. She loves camogie and still plays despite her back pain.”
Support Molly on her journey and her bid to help bring down the waiting time for other children in need of surgery by checking out her Facebook page Scoliosis Awareness – Early Detection.