Penelope Healy-Nolan.

Kindness of strangers

A very kind stranger has raised almost €14,000 for a little girl in Cork with a serious life-limiting illness after seeing her mother on television recently.

Glenda Vaughan from Dublin took it upon herself to set up a GoFundMe page for little Penelope Healy-Nolan, from Cork city, who suffers from Pontocerebellar hypoplasia.

Penelope’s exact variant of the degenerative illness has only been identified in one other person in the entire world.

The condition comes with many complex issues including dystonia, which affects movement, and secondary microcephaly, which prevents the brain from growing after birth.

Penelope requires round the clock care, is tube fed, cannot walk, talk or sit, and is on a large amount of medication each day including benzodiazepines and sodium valproate.

She also uses a nebuliser to help with respiratory issues and struggles to sleep at night, requiring further medication in order to get any rest.

Last month, Penelope’s mum Katie appeared on ‘The Late Late Show’ recently to discuss the shortage of care available for children with additional needs in Ireland.

Ms Vaughan, who has never met Penelope, her mother or her father, was so moved by their story that she reached out and asked permission to start a GoFundMe campaign.

She said she was moved by their story because she also has a child with additional needs.

Ms Vaughan said she could sense Katie’s frustration and wanted to do what she could to get Penelope the immediate care and equipment she needs.

“She has a lot of support on Instagram, and I knew that people wanted to help her but nobody had a way to do it. I thought, ‘I’m going to do this’,” she said.

Ms Vaughan set an initial target of €2,000 which she had to change within an hour due to the huge public response.

The current target is €50,000 and as of going to print, the campaign has raised €13,782 which will be used to buy essential equipment for Penelope.

Ms Vaughan, whose six year old son has autism, said she too has struggled to get the Government support her son needs.

She said: “My son is non-verbal and was on the early intervention list for two years.

“He got no occupational therapy and no physical therapy and only got one block of six speech and language session. It took two years for him to be diagnosed as well, so I know the frustrations that are there.

“Children are suffering all over the country,” she added.

Katie and husband David were previously on ‘The Late Late Show’ having survived the terrorist attack at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in 2015.

During the attack, David was shot in the foot as he attempted to protect Katie from repeated volleys of gunfire.

He has since required multiple surgeries to repair his foot.

“If she can get any kind of help money-wise because that’s what’s holding her back with equipment.

“She can now go and buy the equipment she needs. She shouldn’t have to, because the state should be supplying her, but at least now she can and it means that Penelope isn’t missing out,” concluded Ms Vaughan.

To donate funds to Katie, David and Penelope for much needed equipment and treatments, visit GoFundMe.com and search for ‘Penelope, Glenda Vaughan’.

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