Siobhan Carroll is the founder of ACT for Meningitis, which she founded after she tragically lost her beloved daughter to the illness. Siobhan has just been nominated for IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Award 2014. Here she tells us in her own words, how she ended up running ACT for Meningitis and the incredible impact it has made on Irish families…
Act for Meningitis was set up after we tragically lost our beautiful 4 year old daughter Aoibhe to Meningitis in 2008. Losing Aoibhe is something that I can never express in words completely. I was not with her when she died, I didn’t get to hold her and I never got to say goodbye. So I know how meningitis can literally over night change your life. ACT for Meningitis is so important because I know what meningitis can do. I know the difference having support can mean and I know that ACT for meningitis will fight to the end to ensure. Nobody faces the journey alone after being affected by meningitis. I have and still do walk in those people’s shoes and ACT will help rebuild lives. I want to do something Aoibhe would be proud of and protect others from the horrendous pain of losing loved one.
My advice to a parent with a sick child would be to always TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. You out of anyone knows your own child. If you suspect something isn’t right ACT fast. Seek medical help immediately. If you’re not happy don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Your child’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance.
If you have a child who is struggles with their health, do not feel like your alone, there are many organisations and services available to support, you just need to find the right one suited to your situation. It is always very important that a parent also looks after their own well being so talk to some one if you need to talk. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Around a year ago a family walked in the door looking for some one to talk to. Their child had meningitis when he was a baby and now they have discovered that he had been left with side affects. He found social interaction over whelming and would retreat from situations. All of this was a result of meningitis. Eight weeks after he started with one of our support services which was play therapy his mum came back into the office. She stood there and told us with tears in her eyes, that ACT had changed her family’s life. Her son now had two friends and was able to visit others and was interacting better in school. That was a day I will never forget as she brought home to us what we were doing and the importance that the charity was in people’s lives.
Each day brings something new. From meeting the amazing families/individuals whose lives have been affected by meningitis and offering them support to travelling the length and breath of Ireland providing awareness talks and distributing our awareness cards. The most rewarding things about ACT are to see the difference a simple phone call or a home visit can make to someone is so rewarding, to be inspired by the people that use our services and to know that I can help to rebuild their lives.
A few weeks after Aoibhe died myself and Noel met an amazing lady who was a specialist in the hospital. By chance she mentioned how she had lost 2 children fifteen years apart, I remember looking at her and thinking how do you get through that pain and nightmare? I just had to ask her as I felt that I was literally losing my mind with the pain and loss. Her advice was simple and it was something I literally followed from that day forward. It might not work for everyone but it was my saving grace.
She told me to keep as busy as I could for as long as I could, because it wasn’t in the next few weeks or even in the next few months that the reality of losing Aoibhe would hit home. It would be one or two years down the line that Aoibhe’s death would finally hit me and at that stage in my life I would be strong enough to cope with it. She was so right. I still believe her words got me through my darkest hours and keep me going now.
It most definitely takes a strong-willed person to start a non-profit support organization, one who is driven by a passion to make a difference. In an organization like ACT, you are constantly challenged to have your voice and cause heard. To meet these challenges you need to be a strong leader, an effective communicator and an inspiring motivator. I also feel it is vitally important that a person has compassion and sensitivity towards those they support.
Nobody in life knows what’s ahead of them. By working hard you can make anything happen. To create a balance I try and work out my priorities for my family, my job and myself. I had to learn how to delegate a lot more and this was a massive step for me. When I go home in the evenings my family are my priority. Laptop stays closed and I am learning to use the word NO. I now set boundaries and I can have a work life balance. There will always be challenges and I will take each day as it comes.
My number 1 inspiration is my mum. What an amazing lady! All the knocks life has thrown at her and she still gets up and gets on with it. I have never once in my life heard her complain and she is there for everyone all the time. Her kindness knows no bounds and if I am half the woman she is I would be very proud.
My life philosophy is get up and show up. I now know how short life can be and how in a heartbeat it can change. I made the decision the week Aoibhe died my children’s life was never going to change just because our’s had. So every morning I get up and get on with my day the best I can. I grab hold of all the opportunities that come my way now.
I have two quotes that I try to live by. Firstly, “When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars” Hence our charity logo is a rainbow. I can’t bring Aoibhe back but I can stay positive in her memory and bring hope to those around me. Try and find the best in every situation.
The second quote I love is ” What if I fall? Oh my dear, what if you fly?”- Erin Hanson. I always used to second guess my decisions and would never take chances and now since ACT for Meningitis is here I was always say why not, If I don’t try or ask I’ll never know.
See how you can get involved with ACT for Meningitis here.