A WEXFORD mother who contracted the virus when she was nine weeks pregnant and gave birth to a son with encephalopathy has revealed her joy that her son will be able to attend mainstream school.
Cathal Dunbar, 4, was born with the congenital cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which he contracted while in the womb.
Dawn’s mother said the boy was born in March 2017 after an “unusual pregnancy” but she did not realize she had contracted the virus in the early stages of her pregnancy and had no symptoms.
“It causes what they call in medical terms an insult to the brain, causing the brain to malfunction,” she said. All because of that infection at week nine.
“But he was born and everything was fine so we didn’t notice anything.
“He was a bit small and fortunately we had a pediatrician who was very thorough and said he would investigate further, and that’s when we learned he had the virus.”
CMV is harmless to most adults and children, but it is very dangerous to an unborn baby.
In Cathal’s case, it caused polymyositis, or PMG, of the brain.
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He was taken to Crumlin for an MRI, and Dawn says seeing her son’s condition in front of her was a shock.
Neither she nor her husband Jamie knew where to turn until they were introduced to the Jack & Jill Foundation.
They met their local liaison for Wexford, Joanne Doyle, who could help them see that they were not alone.
“When you see serious or profound injuries written on your child’s medical report, it doesn’t give you much hope,” Dawn said. It was a big shock.
“We were still reeling from the news but she helped us see that there was help within reach and that they had nurses who could come and give us some time.
“She herself has had a similar experience and she says someone can help and support us on this journey, wherever we go.
“I can’t just ask my friend to keep an eye on Cathal for a few hours while I go and run and buy groceries like you can with a normally growing baby. Things can go wrong.”
As a result of CMV, Cathal had quadriplegia grade V.
He has a very severe form of epilepsy, is speechless and has difficulty swallowing.
Dawn said epilepsy is not currently controlled with medication, but they are hoping to find the right combination soon.
And she said while taking care of him was a full 24 hours of work, Cathal was an amazing kid.
TYPICAL FOUR YEARS old
“There are a lot of positives,” she said. He is very cheerful and his laughter is contagious. His sight and hearing are unaffected and he loves tractors, books and owls.
“He loves his family and his grandmother and grandfather. He’s a typical four-year-old in many ways. ”
She added: “The New Holland in blue is his favorite tractor but he is so happy to see any he will scream with delight. He attended drama school in preschool and loved it with his friends.
“The teachers there were amazing and included him in everything and made sure he was just another kid in the school.
“Other kids see Cathal as Cathal, they don’t see that he can’t walk or talk, he’s just one of their friends and he communicates in other ways to get what he wants. .”
And after undergoing a recent psychological assessment to test his abilities at school, he will join his friends in mainstream school.
STARTING A BUSINESS
“He’s in the typical age group for cognitive learning, which is really amazing,” Dawn said.
“It is thanks to the support of Jack and Jill that has allowed us to help him reach his full potential.
“So next September, he will start at the local high school, with a lot of support.
“His brother Conor is thrilled that he is going to be a big brother to his younger brother in Junior Infants.
“I think with any typical child we take it for granted that they will be favored but for someone like Cathal it is a huge achievement.
“Trying to learn from home, we definitely struggled when trying to combine Conor’s online learning and Zoom classes with Cathal in the background, we’re doing our best and that’s an achievement. was huge for the family while he was in high school.”
Jack and Jill Helping the family means Dawn can work part-time as an elementary school teacher at Gaelscoil in Enniscorthy.
She added: “It’s great to do something for yourself a few days a week and know that Cathal is being taken care of. Mary is our Jack and Jill caretaker and she is amazing, she probably takes better care of him than I do!
“And if necessary, if he has a seizure, I can call one of their nurses.
“That was important because it kept him out of the hospital. He always recovers faster at home and surrounded by his things, not at the hospital with lights, beeps and constant interruptions.”
Jack and Jill also keep the family aware of any changes to the law that may affect them and any support they may receive for physical, speech, and language therapies and careers. industry, which Dawn says is hard to find in Wexford.
She continued: “An extra call from someone like Joanne can make all the difference, we have to call and push all the time to support people with disabilities. It is thanks to these therapies that Cathal has improved and is now able to attend regular classes with her friends.”
- The Dunbar family is supporting Jack & Jill. To donate, text WECARE to 50300 to donate €4 or visit www.jackandjill.ie
https://www.thesun.ie/fabulous/8261902/mum-pregnancy-mystery-virus-boy-huge-shock-diagnosis-school/ We are deeply shocked by our little boy’s wonderfully difficult diagnosis