THE Dundalk father of a baby girl who has the same heart condition as the late daughter of Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has said he would do anything to keep her alive as long as possible.
Brian Ward from Ashbrook told The Dundalk Democrat that himself and his partner, Jessica Gardner, have been through the mill since the birth of their four-month-old daughter, Brianna.
"It's been very stressful. We have three other kids who are healthy and we thought this would be the same but Briana had difficulty breathing from birth and doctors eventually discovered she has severe aortic valve stenosis," said Brian.
Aortic valve stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve, which impairs the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body.
This can cause organs to receive an insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood, and blood may "back up" into the lungs, causing shortness of breath.
Minister Martin's youngest daughter, seven-year-old Leana, suffered from the same condition. Sadly, she died at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in October last.
In a statement, the Martin family said they were "heartbroken at the loss of their darling Lana".
"She was a beautiful light in our lives," the statement added.
Little Brianna had to have an operation to widen the valve at just five weeks old. Since then her condition has improved dramatically, however, she will have to undergo another surgery later this year.
"She is almost five kilos now so the doctors might operate on her in March or April. It will be a keyhole surgery and will involve inserting a balloon in her heart. It's hard to say how long that will last; it could be six months or 15 years," he said.
"There's a lot of uncertainty with this. A wee bit of normality has returned to our lives but the first month was very tough.
"We have to watch her for 24 hours. When she was in hospital I was up and down to Dublin twice a day. We also had to look after our other three kids."
Brian is now planning to cut off his beloved mop of hair that he has been growing for the past eight years in a bid to raise funds for Our Lady's Childrens' Hospital, Crumlin.
"I love my hair, but I love my child more. So much has happened in such a short space of time but I'd do anything for her now, so we can keep her here a wee bit longer," he said.
Brian will shave off his locks at a fundraiser he has organised in Clan na Gael GFC this weekend. The charity night is taking place on Saturday, January 22 from 7.30pm. Brian is one of 20 men who have volunteered to shave their hair or get waxed at the event. There will be a kids' disco from 7.30pm to 9pm and an adult disco after 9pm.
Admission for children is free, however, they must be accompanied by an adult. Adults have to pay e5 admission. A free draw with a range of spot prizes will be held for both children and adults. Prizes include a signed Manchester Utd jersey, Louth GAA jersey, hamper, jewellery etc. All of the proceeds will be donated to Our Lady's Childrens' Hospital, Crumlin.
l Brian Ward from Ashbrook with baby Brianna