Sandra Connolly with her sons Conor and Sean
A Clonmel mother of two young boys is set to travel to Mexico for stem cell treatment in a bid to halt progressive multiple sclerosis which has destroyed her life.
Forty year old Sandra Connolly (known as San or Sanie) is determined to travel to Mexico to avail of the treatment .
Sandra believes the treatment, which is not available in this country and is only being trialled in the UK at the moment, is her last hope of trying to stop the frightening progression of her multiple sclerosis.
Sandra, who had an active life of work, enjoying sports and playing with her two sons, ten year old Sean and eight year old Conor before the debilitating disease struck, is intent on travelling to Monterey to attend the renowned Clinica Ruiz in July.
Sandra and her husband Paul McLaren, a world masters powerlifter from Omagh, have made the decision to go for the treatment as she is running out of time as her quality of life rapidly deteriorates.
“I can't play football with my two boys any more, they have to help me more and more around the house to do small tasks you would take for granted like running into the chipper. Gradually it is becoming a reversal of the normal parent/child
relationship in terms of care. If one of them falls I can't go to pick them up. It is heartbreaking not to be able to do that” said Sandra.
“I would accept life as it is now. The disease is in my spine now but I want to stop it progressing to my hands and upper body and this treatment is my best chance. I want to go for this treatment now because if it is left any longer it will have gone too far and I would not be able to have the treatment”, said Sandra.
In the last week family, friends and neighbours have come together to help Sandra secure the treatment she wants to set up a group to raise funds.
A Go Fund campaign (https://www.gofundme.com
/sanie039s-trust) has been launched and people can also make donations in the Credit Union in Clonmel to a Sanie's Trust account.
“I have just been overwhelmed with the kindness of so many people in such a short space of time. Even total strangers have come forward to help out”, said Sandra.
She said nobody wanted to put themselves in such a position. Going public was a very difficult decision to make and one they had to make as it represented the best way forward to raise funds for the treatment in Mexico.
Already a number of fundraisers have been arranged. A major one will be held in Mulcahy's in Clonmel on February 16 when Super Soul Machine will perform.
Sandra is the youngest daughter of Brendan and Lily Connolly. She has two sisters Patricia and Libby and a brother Matthew.
She went to school in the Presentation Convent and was reared in Ballingarrane.
Sandra is a dispensing optician and first met her future husband Paul while they were both studying at university in Kent.
“It was only when I met him through friends while we were both working in Specsavers when we returned to Ireland that we started to go out” said Sandra.
The couple, who live in Droimeala off the by pass, were married in 2007.
Sandra worked in Specsavers in Clonmel for sixteen years and now works from home doing work for Specsavers in Dungarvan where Paul is the director.
Sandra was enjoying working and had a normal healthy life when out of nowhere her body started to give up on her. From somebody who had a busy life of exercise playing basketball in school to playing soccer with Clonmel Celtic and running with friends, Sandra hit a major obstacle.
“I remember the first time I had a problem so well. I was walking around Powerstown when suddenly I lost power in my leg. That was the start of it all. I never thought at that stage that it would have such an impact on my life”, said Sandra.
After two years of MRIs, lumbar punctures and other test,s she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2012.
She remembers very vividly the day in Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny. “It was absolutely devastating. It was primary progressive MS. I was deteriorating all the time. I went from using one crutch, then using two crutches and now I am confined to a wheelchair,” said Sandra.
She is still able to go to the gym three times a week to ensure her upper body is active. Her husband Paul is a member of the Irish Powerlifting Federation team and has represented his country in competition in Canada where he won a bronze medal in the world masters and he won a gold medal in the European masters in Sweden last year.
A friend of the family Peadar Furlong is co-ordinating the fundraising campaign .
“Clonmel is a great town which has responded magnificently in the past. Just in the last week since people became aware of Sandra's situation and the urgent need for her to have treatment in Mexico there has been an enormous outpouring of goodwill and a great desire shown by so many to help out” said Peadar.