Overcoming the challenges of living with hydrocephalus

Posted on: 8th August, 2018

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

Majella McCarthy, (30), a young woman from Dunmanway, has just published a book sharing her inspirational story living with hydrocephalus since she was diagnosed with the condition as a baby.

Majella’s hope is that her book will help people without health issues understand the challenges she and others with conditions like hydrocephalus face on a daily basis. All proceeds from the sale of ‘My Journey Through Life’ are going to the Cork Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Association.

Majella was just 18-months-old when she contracted an infection causing meningitis and later hydrocephalus – a condition in which there is an accumulation of fluid in the brain.

The twin spent just shy of a year in hospital, unconscious for over three months of that time. Her mother Nora spent many of those months sleeping on a mattress alongside her, while Majella’s twin brother Daniel was cared for by relatives at home in West Cork. As a result of hydrocephalus, Majella later suffered from a number of health conditions including diabetes insipidus and facial palsy. She also finds it very difficult to retain information.

Despite these challenges, Majella went on to attend mainstream school, completing both her Junior and Leaving Certificates. A talented musician, she plays a number of instruments and now works part-time as a musical therapist at Bushmount Nursing Home in Clonakilty, where she performs a few times a week for the residents. She also works part-time in a local shop and is a member of a local choir.

Although for much of her life, Majella has been in and out of hospital – at one time she was the only person in Ireland to have three shunts (a medical device that relieves pressure on the brain caused by fluid accumulation)  in her head) – her positive and can-do attitude means that she does not allow her illness to rule her life.

She has learned to drive and enjoys the greater independence that this allows her, in particular travelling to and from her part-time job in Clonakilty.

“Working has given me confidence,” says Majella, who admits that she hasn’t always been so positive. For a long time she felt frustrated and angry and found it hard to accept how life had turned out for her.

“I have thought that for years illness ruined my life but my mother Nora tells me that I am a miracle to have lived.”

“We were told so many times that there was absolutely no hope for her,” says Nora, who is so proud of what her daughter has achieved.

Today, Majella looks forward instead of back. “We have to try to think positively and plod on. It is so easy to feel hard done by in life. Life can be difficult for everybody in so many different ways.”

Majella’s fundraising activities to date have raised over €7000 for the Cork Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Association. “We’re very grateful for all the support we’ve received locally,” says Nora.

“I have come to realise that people with disabilities are really strong human beings, who smile through a lot of situations,” says Majella.

My Journey Through Life is available in shops locally.

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