A TEENAGE carer hailed a ‘second mum’ to her little brother who was born with kidney failure and has an incurable brain disorder, has thanked family firm Astley Hire for giving a boost to the charity that helped rebuild her childhood.
Since the age of four Grace Lynch, from Orrell, Wigan, has played an active role in caring for her 13-year-old brother Reece, a kidney transplantee, who suffers up to 11 epileptic seizures a day.
Now aged 17, Grace has thanked Leigh firm Astley Hire for donating £500 to Wigan and Leigh Young Carers, from the company’s £3,500 Community Foundation set up to give back to the community after marking 50 years in business.
Grace, a former pupil at Standish High school says she has regained her confidence and built friendships through respite trips and after school activities organised by Wigan and Leigh Young Carers.
This provides a much-needed release from the day-to-day palliative care she helps her mum Carole provide for Reece.
Grace has played a pivotal role in caring for Reece, which included helping him to walk and talk after he sustained an unexplained brain injury following his life-saving kidney transplant from his mum Carole, aged three-and-a-half.
Reece, who was also born with a hole in his heart, later developed epilepsy, and then an incurable and life limiting brain condition called Hippocampal Sclerosis. He also has to contend stoma bag, hypoglycemia and metabolic bone disease and Asperger syndrome.
He is being treated at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’ Hospital for his heart, kidney, endochrine and skin conditions, and Manchester Children’s Hospital for his neurological health.
As well as caring for her brother, Grace has also faced serious health issues of her own after being diagnosed with a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the oesophagus, known as eosinophilic esophagitis, two years ago.
She is currently on a liquid diet and is unable to eat a number of foods, such as those containing nuts, gluten, wheat and dairy. She is receiving transitional care from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
Grace wanted to personally thank Astley Hire for its donation, as she knows just how important the support is that they provide for young carers such as herself.
She said: “It means a lot to me so I was happy to take time out and come and thank Astley Hire.
“I know first-hand what the charity does and how it helps give children a childhood they might miss out on.
“It has changed me as a person. I’m more confident and I don’t feel alone.
“I missed out on going out with friends but the charity helped me rebuild what I lost.
“I love Reece to pieces and wouldn’t change anything. He can be hard work like any little brother!
“I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on a childhood and that’s because of the charity. They’ve helped me so much. Now I want to do whatever I can to give them something back and help the new people who come in every year.”
Paul Carroll, project manager at Wigan and Leigh Young Carers, said: “We support young carers from as young as 5 years old, through the transition into adulthood, up to age 24”.
“We do this in a number of ways, mainly through peer support and group activities. We currently have 10 after school groups dotted around Wigan borough, which are tailored around specific age groups and are run by a dedicated team of volunteers”.
“We also provide befriending support and counselling, alongside running training workshops, including our popular Cook Club. As part of building confidence and friendships through shared experiences, we also run one off activities and residential outdoor pursuit’s trips, dependent on funding”.
“It’s organisations like Astley Hire that help facilitate all of that.
“The funds will help with the upkeep of our holiday lodge in Blackpool so that young carers get the opportunity to have a family holiday, away from the pressures of everyday life. Some of our young carers have never been away before, so this is a massive experience for them.”.
“Every year we help between 250 and 350 young people. We don’t put a time limit on the support we offer, as caring responsibilities can last throughout their childhood and beyond – they can be with us for six months or six years.”
Grace and Reece’s mum Carole Lynch said: “I’d also like to thank Astley Hire. It’s very hard for charities at the moment – everyone is fighting for the same pound.
“When they get a donation like that it gives them so much help. The work they do is amazing. They run respite, after school clubs and organise trips.
“When the young carers go they get fed and they do different activities. The charity teaches them how to cook and also runs first aid courses. They offer wonderful support for the children.”
Stephen Dorricott, Managing Director of Astley Hire said he and his brother, Astley Hire Operations Director Michael Dorricott, had no hesitation selecting Leigh and Wigan Young Carers as a recipient of one of their 2017 Community Foundation grants.
Stephen said: “Leigh and Wigan Young Carers is exactly the type of charity we had in mind when we set up the Astley Hire Community Foundation.
“It’s a brilliant cause and plays a vital role in supporting young people who need respite from the day to day care they provide for a loved one, and to enjoy their childhood like any other youngster their age.
“Grace is a wonderful example of that and we hope our donation will help the charity to continue its progress in providing such an invaluable service.”
Astley Hire is an industrial equipment hire business, with equipment for hire including access machines, industrial cleaning machines, heaters and coolers, and general tools, as well as equipment safety training courses across the North West.
The company has been in business 50 years and employs 26 staff across seven divisions at its Jury Street Headquarters in Leigh. The company this year up a £3,500 Community Foundation to help local good causes.
Carole said: “Reece was born with kidney failure and within six to eight weeks it became end stage.
“He was on a dialysis machine until he was three and a half at which point I gave Reece one of my kidneys.
“Unfortunately just after the transplant there was complications and Reece sustained a brain injury and was left with epilepsy.
“We hoped surgery would correct it but when he had his last MRI scan he was diagnosed with hippocampal sclerosis. There is no cure and he is now on palliative care.”
She added: “Grace was only young when Reece was born. She didn’t know little babies came home because Reece was in Alder Hey so much early on.
“When we eventually came home she took it upon herself to become a second mum.
“She used to get medication and feeds for him, and lift up the dialysis stuff. If I was ever stuck she would go and get something for me.
“Reece used to vomit a lot and she would be first there with the sick bowl. She’s been a superstar.
“But as a result she’s missed out on so much of her childhood. She couldn’t go to parties because Reece would be on the dialysis machine, 12 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“After his brain injury she would be constantly on the floor with him, rolling a ball or car to him to try and get him to respond.
“They said he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk. He might not always make a lot of sense but he has been able to do it and that is thanks in many ways to Grace.
“She hasn’t experienced normality during her childhood and I became a little concerned about Grace because she was doing so much for me and Reece.
“I spoke to my complex needs team nurses and they helped to get Grace on a befriending service run through the council.
“When she was a bit older the charity was established and she was referred to them. She’s been with them for many years now.
“She went with them to the young carers festival in Southampton last year and has been on lots of trips over the years.
“Now she’s an older teen she likes to try and give a little back. She did the Santa Dash in Liverpool last year and raised over £1,000 for the charity. They’ve been a big part of her life.”
With Reece’s seizures becoming more severe, Carole has recently launched a Just Giving page to raise £2,000 to adapt her front room for both his therapy and sleeping needs and Astley Hire MD Stephen Dorricott has also donated to this.
Carole explained: “It is difficult to get out and about with Reece. If he fits we have to go straight home. I can’t use public transport easily, and have to risk assess everywhere we go.
“He loves his rugby and we go to Wigan Warriors as much as we can, although we do have to leave if he has a big fit. All the players know him now and call him ‘Captain Trouble’!
“We don’t know how long we have with Reece, they can’t put a time on it. He’s a sprightly lad and a little fighter.
“Since the transplant that side of things seems to be OK. But it’s just one thing after another – nothing is ever straightforward.
“His epilepsy is so severe now that he’s not allowed to go upstairs in case he fits behind one of the doors and I can’t get to him. The most he’s had in 24 hours was 16.
“I’ve had the house assessed and I need to turn the living room into a bedroom for him.”
Wigan and Leigh Young Carers provide a range of services to help young carers thrive and enjoy their childhood, support to relieve stress and prevent physical and mental harm.
To find out more about Wigan and Leigh Young Carers visit:
To find out more about Astley Hire visit:www.astleyhire.co.ukor find them on Facebook or Twitter.
To support Carole’s fundraising drive to adapt her front room to meet Reece’s complex medical needs visithttps://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/reece-lynch?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socpledgedesktop&utm_content=reece-lynch&utm_campaign=post-pledge-desktop&utm_term=NyYpqQvXy
Grace and Reece’s mum Carole Lynch with Paul Carroll of Wigan and Leigh Young Carers, Grace and Reece, with Astley Hire MD Stephen Dorricott
Grace and Reece with Astley Hire MD Stephen Dorricott