He never quite made it home, at any rate in the way they wanted him home. From the day of his birth, a year past next Monday to his peaceful passing just four months later on March 16th, Zach O’Donnell spent the first three days of his life in Letterkenny General Hospital before being transferred to the Childrens Hospital in Crumlin.
It was there that his all too short life ended but for his Convoy based parents, Kenny and Paula O’Donnell, and his three brothers, Odhran (11), Jamie (7) and Fionn (3) he’ll always be with them. In hearts, in minds, in memories and in what might have been had the young Down Syndrome baby survived a rare lung illness.
Last Saturday in Letterkenny, the O‘Donnells presented a cheque for 10,178.71 euro to Catriona McGloin representing the Childrens Medical Research Foundation at Crumlim Hospital, the proceeds from a specially organised cycle race and fun day organised by the family and their friends in August last in memory of Zach.
“It’s a way of remembering him. We still feel he’s with us,” Kenny reflected on the fund-raising venture and the motive behind it. “We wanted to make some contribution to the childrens hospital where he was so well looked after. They couldn’t have been kinder to him or to us.”
When they took the fragile body of their young son home last March for burial, Kenny recalls his own words to the cardiac nurse and her staff: “You haven’t heard the last of Zach O’Donnell.”
The presentation of the cheque ensures that and the family hope to organise another fund-raiser next year to keep his memory and his name alive in the wider community.
“The response to the cycle race and the fun day was just overwhelming and we’re very grateful to every single person who helped out in any way and to all who supported the events. It couldn’t have happened without them.”
Kenny had got the idea of the cycle element through his own membership of the Four Masters Cycle Club and with Paula involved in staging the fun day, the turnout for the event helped boost the funding total.
“It’s for a great cause as anyone who has had any contact with the childrens hospital will know. When we were there we stayed in the Ronald McDonald House in the grounds of the hospital and met so many other parents and families, quite a few of them from Donegal,” says Kenny.
“It’s a magnificent facility and we’re hoping to organise another cycle and fun day next year to raise money for Ronald McDonald House.”
Zach suffered from fibrosis of the lung, unusual in a child under seven years. “His lungs just gave up in the end.”
But his young spirit survives and the research unit at Crumlin Hospital - and all who avail of it - will now benefit from his memory and the unstinting efforts of his family and community.