We are a kind and generous people. We have all benefited in one way or another, from the generosity of people; but we as a family got more than our fair share recently.

It started as a typical Monday morning. I was enjoying my first cup of tea when I got the call every parent dreads. My son, who lives in Vancouver, was seriously ill and about to undergo open heart surgery. My first thought was, “I need to tell his siblings,” followed immediately by, “I need to get there.”

The next 20 hours were a blur of phone calls, booking flights, organising transport and trying to get information from the hospital. You also have to sort out all the things you would normally do when going away, but now try to do them in a panic. That’s when a wave of support and love came our way from family, friends, neighbours, friends of friends, people we ‘sorta knew’, and even some complete strangers.

Trying to book flights can be stressful at the best of times, but when you need to fly urgently, the various booking sites, stopovers, baggage allowance, terms and conditions (etc) is overwhelming. After nearly booking flights to Verona instead of Vancouver, I knew I needed help and put a call into my sister (who has probably booked more flights than an Aer Lingus customer care assistant). Fifteen minutes later, she had my daughter and I booked on a flight from Dublin.

I then started throwing stuff into a bag while on the phone trying to get the dog and cats (and everything else) minded. Soon, I had another sister on her way to walk Willow, a friend picking her up to stay and neighbours minding the cats, hens and even watering the glasshouse. I was on the road by 9:30am; focused on getting on that flight and getting to Ian. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have driven, but the urge to be moving towards him was too strong to wait for a lift. I did let my brother drive me in from Maynooth rather than face the M50.

Tear-stained faces

By the time my daughter and I boarded the plane, we were a mess. The Aer Lingus crew took one look at our tear-stained faces and took us under their wing.

For the next 10 hours (the same length of time as Ian’s surgery), they went out of their way to support us; ensuring we had wi-fi so we could keep in touch with Vancouver and making us comfortable. One even gave us a little angel.

As word of Ian’s surgery filtered out, we got so many lovely messages offering help, money, and prayers. Ireland must have been visible from space with the candles that were lit for him.

Thanks to Ian’s good friend at the hospital, by the time we landed in Seattle we knew he had survived surgery. After another short flight, I was sitting beside him in the ICU. To see your 36-year-old son (one of the fittest people I know) in bed with tubes and monitors is a sobering experience. We will be forever grateful to the surgical team at Vancouver General hospital for the expert care they gave him.


Lest we think only the Irish are kind and generous, we were overwhelmed with the kindness and support we got from Canadians and Ian’s friends from all over the world. Over the last two weeks, we’ve been offered money, accommodation and air conditioners (as we melt in the Vancouver heat). I’m currently sitting in Ian’s apartment, which is filled with flowers, stuffed animals and food. Just this morning, I opened the door to a delivery guy with breakfast for the two of us. I’ve never had perfectly poached eggs on sourdough and avocado delivered to my door!

Ian is recovering well and I will return home shortly while his brother comes to stay. I wish I could name everyone who has helped us, but it would take up the entire back page of the Irish Farmers Journal. All I can do is say a huge “Go raibh maith agat” to all the kind people in the world who have shown us love.

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