"A Safe, Fun And Positive Environment" - Louise Johnston Talks About Barretstown Camp 8 years ago

"A Safe, Fun And Positive Environment" - Louise Johnston Talks About Barretstown Camp

We spoke to Louise Johnston recently and she is one inspiring 20-year-old. 

Diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2010, she immediately underwent major surgery and was then faced with intense physiotherapy as she made the steep uphill climb towards recovery.

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However, she wasn't about to give up without a fight and credits Barretstown, a camp located in Co Kildare which provides programmes for seriously ill children and their families, with making her a stronger person.

Here, Louise tells us in her own words exactly why Barretstown, founded by Hollywood actor Paul Newman in 1994, is such a special place.


 

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In 2010, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, called a pilocytic astrocytoma, after several months of extreme headaches.

The headaches had been diagnosed as migraines and different things and then one morning in January 2010, I woke up with a terrible headache, the pain of which I can’t even describe. I couldn’t see properly either.

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Louise credits Barretstown with helping her become stronger after her illness

I was diagnosed in Cavan General Hospital on the 15th January and had surgery in Raphael's children's unit in Beaumont hospital the following day.

It all happened very quickly and in a way it was good that I didn't have much time to think about it. The staff in both hospitals were absolutely fantastic.

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Before surgery, I was told of the possible side-effects. I am really passionate about playing the piano and the tumour was in the cerebellum so it could have affected co-ordination (this was a great worry for me). The surgeon also mentioned the possibility of not walking, and even mentioned death at the end.

Obviously, for a 16-year-old this was very traumatic and I was scared.

I returned home to Cavan a week after the surgery.

I was very tired after surgery but was doing well until about three weeks down the road. I noticed my balance wasn't great and I was finding it hard to walk properly.

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This got progressively worse and I attended intensive physiotherapy for many months. My self-confidence was very low at this point and I also had to attend counselling over the coming months.

This was a tough enough period. I was very self-conscious, it was kind of paranoia as I felt that people were looking at me even if they weren’t.

The summer after I was diagnosed, I got a chance to go to Barretstown and this really helped. I’ve been there several times since. It really is a fantastic place.

Barretstown is an activity camp in Co. Kildare for children and young people who have been through a serious illness or are undergoing treatment. There are so many activities from horse-riding, climbing walls, arts and crafts and lots more. The activities are set to challenge children and get out them of their comfort zone.

Children and their families can get a break from their daily routines of hospital appointments and chemo sessions and things like that.

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During spring and autumn, families attend Barretstown and in summer it’s just for children from about nine years old and upwards.

I spent ten days there during the summer of 2010 and again in 2011. It was really through Barretstown and CanTeen Ireland that I began to grow into a much stronger person. It provides such a safe, fun and positive environment for young people. I made a whole group of new friends, many of which I would call my best friends today.

I became interested in fundraising after my illness in the hope that I could make even a small difference to the lives of others who have been affected by serious illnesses and also to give something back to the people and places that helped me grow into the person I am today.

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A talented piano player, Louise is studying music in college

I'm having my 21st, which is doubling as a fundraiser for Barettstown, on the 6th September in Cavan town. There’s a group of guys from Cavan getting waxed on the same night so they’re doing their own fundraising. Some of them are actually from a support group I’m in called Canteen Ireland.

I’m just hoping to raise as much money as possible. Barettstown needs €5 million each year to continue providing its services to family and children free of charge. I’m just hoping that I can make a little bit of difference by contributing some money.

It's important to note that people can donate any amount from €2 up and that €2 will make a difference.

 

To learn more about Louise's efforts and donate to the cause, click here.