31st annual Galway Cycle to take place as a tribute to the compassionate care given to bereaved parents and families.
Up to 300 cyclists will take to the road on Friday 6th April 2018 to pedal from Maynooth University to Galway in a bid to raise €120,000 for the charity Friends of the Coombe to enable it to help the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital develop hospice-style bereavement suites to create a family-friendly home away from home for bereaved parents.
Since it was first established in 1987 by a group of students at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, the annual Galway Cycle has covered more than 12,000 kms of road and raised in excess of €1.5 million for a host of children's charities.
This year's charity partnership was inspired by the story of baby Tom Fahey who died of an uncommon chromosomal abnormality when he was just 11 days old. And it was the compassionate care that baby Tom and his family received from the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital that moved Maynooth-based mum and dad Sarah and Terry Fahey to nominate the charity for this year's Galway Cycle partnership.
President of the Galway Cycle, sociology and geography student at Maynooth University, Ciara Keogh said that this year's cycle promises to be the biggest yet. "We are delighted to partner this year with Friends of the Coombe. Theirs is a project with a national reach that really touched the hearts of past cyclists, all of whom play a part in the annual charity nomination and voting process," she said.
"This year we are hoping to recruit up to 300 cyclists, 150 collectors and 100 additional volunteers who will form a support crew."
“The Galway Cycle is completely volunteer led and managed to ensure that costs are kept to an absolute minimum. We have set ourselves an ambitious fundraising target of €120,000 and hope that with the support of cyclists, friends, corporate sponsors and members of the general public we will be able to reach that goal by the time we leave Galway on Sunday 8th April."
Baby Tom's parents Sarah and Terry Fahey said it was an honour to be able to support Friends of the Coombe.
"We will never forget the care Tom and we, as a family, received from the staff at The Coombe. They played such an important role in Tom's life. They cared for us and supported us. They shared our journey," she said.
"It is wonderful that we are able to come together again to share another journey, this time as a family of cyclists, in remembrance of all bereaved parents and families, and as a tribute to the compassionate care The Coombe provides to all families who experience the loss of a baby."
Ailbhe Gilvarry, chairperson of Friends of the Coombe said that the charity is indebted to the Fahey family for nominating Friends of the Coombe for this partnership.
"This is an incredibly important project for Friends of the Coombe. The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital was the first maternity hospital in Ireland to adopt the 'Hospice Friendly Hospitals'' programme and we hope that the creation of a family-friendly home away from home will not only benefit bereaved families at The Coombe, but will also showcase nationally the highest possible standard of bereavement care."
The Galway Cycle will take place between Friday 6th April and Sunday 8th April and is open to anyone who would like to take part. Full information, including a pre-Galway Cycle training schedule and online registration, is available at www.galwaycycle.ie. As well as cyclists, the Galway Cycle is also encouraging people to register to help with a street collection in Galway on Saturday 7th April and to volunteer for a variety of roles throughout the Galway Cycle weekend. Those who would like to make a donation should visit www.galwaycycle.ie for more details.
The story of Baby Tom Fahey as written by his mother Sarah Fahey
On Monday 27th July 2015 our world changed forever. Our baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, at the 20 week scan. We were numb. I remember lying there hearing the words but almost zoning out thinking this cannot be happening to us.
We hadn’t planned on finding out the sex of the baby, but Terry asked. The sonographer told us our baby was a boy. In the car on the way home it was so hard to reconcile the fact that I could feel him moving yet we were told he was going to die.
Our first instinct was to give this little guy a name. We decided to call him Tom. By naming him, as parents we hoped we would give him a strong sense of belonging. For us, his life started that day because we knew he would have a very short life, if any, outside the womb.
After we had gotten over the initial shock we quickly realised that we had two choices: we could spend Tom's life feeling sad and miserable or we could celebrate it. I didn't want Tom to feel the sadness. We had an overwhelming desire to breathe as much love and life into him while he was with us.
Tom was born on the 30th October 2015 and, to everyone'’s amazement, he lived for 11 wonderful days.
From the moment we got Tom's diagnosis until the day he passed away – and still to this day – the staff at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital have been incredible to us.
We were treated with dignity and compassion by every member of staff we came into contact with, whether they were medical, administrative, support or auxiliary. There is a strong compassionate ethos that is almost innate in all of them.
The care Tom and I received both in pregnancy and beyond was amazing. Our obstetrician gave us an enormous sense of security. We knew we were in safe hands. This took a lot of the worry off us and allowed us to focus on the present and be present with Tom. The neonatal nurses looked after Tom so well. I stayed awake with Tom for the first 72 hours of his life and I always looked forward to seeing the nurses coming in to feed him every three hours. The paediatricians known to us in pregnancy and present at Tom's birth treated him with the utmost concern and dignity.
The emotional support we received from the bereavement midwife was phenomenal. She was very much our 'life support'. She was with us every step of our journey and at our lowest points she carried us through. It is testament to her and the care we received from her that our first instinct was to ring her when Tom died. To lose your baby in your arms is indescribable, but to hear her voice on the other end of the phone gave us strength. She continues to give us that strength.
We never felt rushed at any of our appointments or scans. We were encouraged from the beginning to embrace our time with Tom and start memory making. The bereavement midwife introduced us to the idea of the memory box early on and she made sure we left the hospital with our memory box full of precious keepsakes from Tom's time in hospital such as locks of his hair and his footprints.
It was incredible to have people like the bereavement midwife and chaplains looking after us and, because of their previous experiences, they simply knew what to do.
We never felt we were alone on this journey. The staff helped make an extremely difficult time an incredibly special time. When Tom was born and the subsequent days we spent with him in hospital were magical. It was as if time had stopped and we were living in a bubble. We were cared for as a family unit throughout. The three of us stayed together day and night on a ward away from the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital and healthy crying babies. We looked forward to our daily visits from doctors, nurses, bereavement midwife, chaplains and paediatricians. They very much became Tom's second family.
When we left the hospital with Tom, The Coombe were very much still involved in our care and helped support us as we looked after Tom at home for six very short but precious days.
The staff at The Coombe played such an important role in Tom's life. They cared for us and supported us. They shared our journey.
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