“CALLIE”, BALLINA’S FIRST GUIDE DOG FOR THE BLIND: The most recent ‘working’ canine has been placed in a new home in Ballina. Callie, a beautiful female dog is now enjoying life and providing invaluable assistance to a young, blind mother, Pamela Young (nee Mc Keogh) in Fernhill, Cullinagh.
Pamela is daughter of Anne and Jimmy Mc Keogh, Newtown and in the early 80’s at the tender age of fourteen months was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma. This is a rare type of eye cancer that usually develops in early childhood, typically before the age of five years. It develops in the retina, which is the specialised light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and colour. In most children with retinoblastoma, the disease affects only one eye. However, one out of three children with the disease, develops cancer in both eyes. Unfortunately, Pamela was one of this group. Due to early diagnosis, while the tumours were successfully removed, thus preventing the spread of the cancer, Pamela was left without sight.
At the age of five years, Pamela, like many other blind young children from the Mid West had to leave home and attend St. Mary’s School for the Blind in Dublin. Up to the age of nine years she was only permitted to come home every two weeks (weekend) during the school term and every weekend after the age of nine. All you parents out there, just try to visualise how you would feel if, instead of taking your precious little five-year-old child to the local primary school you had to travel to Birdhill or Limerick Railway Station every second weekend and see him/her safely onto the Dublin train - (quite a number of deaf children from the district also had to travel to school in Dublin). Pamela continued to attend St. Mary’s until she sat her Junior Cert. In the mid nineties she was the first blind student to attend St. Anne’s Community College. Home at last, she thoroughly enjoyed her years at St. Anne’s where she lived student life ‘to the full’ and received great reception/support from all the students and teachers. Having successfully completed Transition Year, Pamela, who also suffered from Scoliosis experienced problems in her pre-leaving cert year and due to back surgery was unable to sit her Leaving Certificate examination. However, at the age of nineteen years she successfully completed a six-month ‘FÁS’ ECDL course. Lack of facilities for the blind in the local workplace and difficulty in accessing travel to Limerick prevented Pamela from undertaking employment outside her home.
Thirteen years ago, Pamela met ‘the love of her life’ – Brett Young – and they are both happily married with two wonderful and caring children, Zoe (9) and Conor (7). Reluctant to leave her young family for any length of time, this young lady postponed her application for the assistance of a Guide dog until this year. Following a three-week residential training course in May-June at the National Headquarters Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Training Centre in Cork, Pamela returned home with her valuable ‘Callie’ and was accompanied by a special instructor, Dave Kennelly who spent a few days monitoring her progress. Dave returned later in the summer and was most impressed by Pamela’s progress and how well the entire Young-Mc Keogh families had adapted to their most welcome addition!
Pamela is absolutely thrilled at the independence her Guide Dog has given her. She is an extremely gentle and caring lady and is most willing, on all occasions, to share her experiences with everyone in the community. She is high in her praise of the people of Killaloe-Ballina and the business community who assist her when necessary. An avid reader of Braille publications, she also enjoys Audio books, chatting on her iPhone and listening to TV programmes. For over three decades, Pamela has relied on and received continuous support from her loving parents, Anne and Jimmy: her siblings, Anne, Martha, John, Stephen and James: and, since 2000 from her beloved husband, Brett and children, Zoe and Conor.
BOHER SCHOOL FASHION SHOW: The annual Boher NS Fashion Show will be held at the Lakeside Hotel on Thursday, October 10th. Tickets at €20 are available from organising committee members, Boher School or at 087 6332008.