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An entire community is rallying for little Roo

PUBLISHED: 17:30 28 March 2019

Roonagh O'Halloran was only 27 weeks when she was born in March 2018  Picture: Submitted

Roonagh O'Halloran was only 27 weeks when she was born in March 2018 Picture: Submitted

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A Hadleigh family has been left speechless at the support shown by the community after their miracle daughter, who has already fought several health battles in her short life, was diagnosed with cancer.

Roonagh O'Halloran with mum Emma Jay of Hadleigh. Roonagh weighed less than 2lbs when she was born  Picture: SubmittedRoonagh O'Halloran with mum Emma Jay of Hadleigh. Roonagh weighed less than 2lbs when she was born Picture: Submitted

Tomorrow marks Roonagh Faith O’Halloran’s first birthday and instead of a traditional party her neighbours in Hadleigh are wearing Red for Roo and raising money to support her family as she is treated for cancer.

Roonagh’s aunt, Rhiannon Grimsey and the rest of the family have been working hard to arrange Wear Red for Roo, with everyone paying £1 to participate.

“Every school in Hadleigh is taking part,” says Rhiannon. “And some of the local surrounding villages are doing it too now. If I’m honest I’ve lost track. Initially my vision was to see everybody in Hadleigh doing it, and it’s just gone beyond that to some of the villages. Businesses are taking part, and shops and some care homes. It’s become bigger than I ever thought it would be when I initially put the posters out.”

Even though she is yet to turn one, Roonagh has already faced more battles than most of us would in our lifetime.

Roonagh O'Halloran's aunt, Rhiannon Grmisey and cousin Teddy  Picture; Charlotte Smith-JarvisRoonagh O'Halloran's aunt, Rhiannon Grmisey and cousin Teddy Picture; Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Roonagh was born prematurely at Addenbrooke’s at 27 weeks on March 29, 2018, weighing only 1lb 7oz.

Little Roo spent many months in Cambridge, before transferring to Ipswich Hospital, returning home with her parents Emma Jay and Michael O’Halloran to Hadleigh in June 2018.

Due to her prematurity Roo was treated for chronic lung disease and a congenital heart defect, undergoing surgery last December, but making it home just in time for Christmas where she appeared to be recovering well.

But her health took a turn for the worse earlier this year.

Residents of Hadleigh in Suffolk are wearing red on Friday, March 29 to raise money for Roonagh O'Halloran  Picture: SubmittedResidents of Hadleigh in Suffolk are wearing red on Friday, March 29 to raise money for Roonagh O'Halloran Picture: Submitted

During a routine hospital appointment testing her lungs and checking her heart in February, Roo appeared unwell and was admitted to A&E where, after testing, her parents were delivered the devastating blow that their daughter had a malignant tumour on her liver.

She was transferred from Evalina London Children’s Hospital to Great Ormond Street Hospital and is now being treated at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge.
She completed her third round of chemotherapy last week, which meant she was allowed to return home in time for her birthday celebrations.

While scans show the cancer hasn’t spread from Roonagh’s liver, the family say she may need a liver transplant and they are waiting for her to be admitted to a hospital in Birmingham for an assessment to remove her tumour.

Rhiannon describes her niece as “so smiley and happy when she’s not sicky”. She adds: “It’s a blessing she’s so young and doesn’t understand what’s going on. She’s got her favourite little rattles and things and she recently opened her birthday presents early – her favourite thing was the wrapping paper of course!”

Roonagh O'Halloran was born at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge  Picture: SubmittedRoonagh O'Halloran was born at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge Picture: Submitted

She continues: “Everyone in the town’s been incredible. Emma and Mikey are utterly lost for words and the same for Emma’s four other children, they’ve had so much support too.

“I said to my uncle recently it’s a really lovely little town and when you need something everyone comes together. A friend of mine organised a disco, band and raffle at the Legion in Hadleigh in March and over £1,000 was raised. It was really nice to see everyone there.”

In the coming months Kersey Mill, Hadleigh Rugby club and Hadleigh Football Club all have events planned to raise further money for Roonagh. Money raised on Wear Red for Roo Day and at other events will help Roonagh and her parents.

“Initially a Go Fund Me page was started by one of Emma’s friends,” Rhiannon says, “but it’s honestly gone crazy. There’s been so much support and it all helps with the cost of travel and other things. Obviously neither of the parents are able to work at the moment. They are given accommodation at Addenbrooke’s but they still have to run a house at home and Emma has other children living back at home.

“I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone. What you’re doing to help Emma, Mikey and Roo is incredible!”

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