A workshop in County Waterford has become a hive of magical activity in recent weeks. But it’s not Santa’s elves hard at work – it’s father and son John and Leo Flynn, who have been creating Magical Fairy Doors in aid of their ‘little Fairy Princess’, Nadine Ouajjit Flynn.
One-year-old Nadine, who is John’s granddaughter and Leo’s niece, is bravely battling Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma and every cent raised from the sale of Nadine’s Magical Fairy Doors will go into a fund for her treatment. Retired builder John and carpenter Leo have cut over 800 doors so far, with Leo’s wife Teresa busy painting and decorating them from their home in Portlaw.
The Fairy Doors cost €5 and Nadine’s aunt, Elaine Whittle, said the response to them has been phenomenal.
“The demand has been amazing, I’d say we’ve had orders for somewhere between 800 and 900 already, very few people are ordering just one. We were so inundated with calls that we had to set up a special Facebook page, Nadine’s Magical Fairy Doors, to cope with the orders and queries. At present there is approximately a week lead time for a door but this is picking up even more now with a lot of people buying them as stocking fillers for Christmas.”
Nadine, who is the daughter of Sarah Flynn from Kill, Co Waterford and Karim Ouajjitt of Parma Italy, was diagnosed with High Risk Neuroblastoma last April, at just 11 months old. Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer of the nervous system.
“At the beginning of April Nadine was able to roll over, crawl, pull herself to stand, and do all the things you would expect from a 10 month old”, her mother Sarah recalls. “She was absolutely perfect, our little monkey! But one Wednesday evening we noticed she wasn’t able to support her legs anymore. It was as if she was a rag doll, all her strength was gone. As the evening went on we noticed she wasn’t crawling or sitting anymore.”
Two weeks later, Nadine was referred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital.
“That was on a Friday evening, we had no idea what to expect. We went in to the A&E Department at 4pm. She had bloods taken and an MRI was done. At 11.30pm, three doctors and a nurse came in to tell us that the reason for Nadine’s loss of strength was a large mass compressing Nadine’s spine and growing into her chest. They wanted to operate that night. It felt like our whole world had been destroyed with a single sentence. An operation was needed urgently to relieve the pressure on Nadine’s spine, to give her a chance to get some strength back in her legs. It would give her a chance to walk.
“The neurosurgeon showed us the MRI scan on the Friday night. The tumour was very big, it was covering almost all of her right lung, half of her left lung and pushing on her trachea. Everyone was amazed she had never had any breathing problems. Nadine had never even been sick! The operation was postponed until the Saturday morning, but when morning came around the surgical team had concerns about operating. Their concern was that the tumour would cause Nadine to stop breathing once she was anesthetised. The doctors decided to transfer her to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin to operate, where she would have Cardiothoracic surgeons available to step in. Her operation was life threatening.
“Giving Nadine to the theatre nurse and watching her smiling little face disappear down the hall was, without fail, the hardest thing we have ever had to do in our lives. Not knowing if we would see that smile again almost killed us. The idea of planning a funeral before a first birthday is a horrific one, that I would never wish on anyone.
“Nadine spent 3 days intubated in the ICU, as a precaution. She started her first round of chemotherapy while she was still sedated in the ICU. She was moved down to St Johns Ward once she was stable and breathing fine on her own. A few days later we were told that Nadine’s cancer was the more aggressive form, meaning that she needed a more aggressive treatment plan. Her entire treatment plan should last about 18 months and will include chemotherapy, another operation, radiation, antibody treatment and a stem cell transplant. The other side of Nadine’s cancer being a high risk case is that there is a big chance of relapse. As we progress with her treatment we may need to look at options in Europe and America.”
Seven months into her treatment and Nadine is doing quite well, given the circumstances, Sarah says. Her blood counts are looking great and she can stop her daily injection for stimulating the bone marrow because all her counts are in normal range. She remains in protective isolation but she’s in good spirits and as much fun as ever!
However medical professionals have estimated that Nadine has a 70% chance of cancerous cells reoccurring and her family are now hoping they can secure her a place on a preventative trial in the US. The overall cost of this could run to an estimated €250, 000 so family, friends and the wider community have rallied around to do all they can to support the family. Sale of the Fairy Doors is just one of numerous initiatives going on, with all proceeds going into the official Trust Fund to cover Nadine’s treatment.
“It started out with a barbeque and music at Kirwin’s of Kill in September, which raised €200,000”, Elaine continued. “Since then, there’s been a number of other events, including Halloween disco in Kill Community Centre and a charity night by Waterford Pony Club and the Kill Harriers, a charity cycle by the Copper Coast Wheelers Sportiff and a bucket collection at Walsh Park.
“The Clodagh Lounge in Portlaw will host a benefit night in aid of Nadine’s Cancer Battle Trust on 5th December featuring Divil the Bit, Three for the Road and guests, while there will be a variety night at the Gaelach Gorm Theatre in Kill on 4th and 5th December. People have been amazing, we’re being contacted by strangers offering help. Some local companies have also been great, getting in touch and making donations. We are just so grateful and every little bit will help towards Nadine’s treatment.”
• Orders for Fairy Doors can be placed at https://www.facebook.com/nadinesmagicalfairydoors/ and you can follow how Nadine’s doing at https://www.facebook.com/nadinescancerbattle/. Donations to the Trust can also be made at www.idonate.ie/nadinescancerbattle