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UHG scholarships tribute to tragic diabetes sisters



Scholarships are to be set up by University Hospital Galway staff in memory of two Galway City sisters who left a lasting impression on all who met them during their long stints in the Diabetes Centre before they both succumbed to a cruel illness eleven years apart.

With just 13 months between them, Tanya and Hazel Tarpey from Letteragh, Rahoon, seemed perfectly healthy little girls. The eldest in the family, Tanya was nearly three when she was diagnosed with APECED (autoimmune polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ectodermal dystrophy). Her sister was tested a year later following a fall off a tricycle.

The condition is a rare genetic autoimmune disease affecting mainly the endocrine glands. The most common features are parathyroid gland failure, affecting calcium metabolism, chronic susceptibility to candida yeast infection and Addison’s disease or adrenal insufficiency.

During their early years the pair had to regularly attend hospital in Galway and Dublin for blood and calcium monitoring and take medication such as steroids, but it was only when they hit their mid-teens that the condition took a turn for the worse, explains their mam Mary.

“They had very low calcium levels, energy levels. They’d have muscular spasms where the muscles would lock which was very painful. Hazel had been to the UK to be assessed for a transplant but it didn’t work out. Every time you’d solve one thing you’d hit another brick wall, yet another obstacle.”

Tanya was just 21 when she died on September 6, 2003, an unimaginable blow for her parents Mary and Tim, sister Ruth and brother Dermot. But it must have been truly horrific for Hazel, knowing she could share the same fate.

“She always had a smile on her face regardless of what was going on in her head knowing what happened to her sister. She’d worry about other people all the time. She was so kind. She had a wonderful outlook, she was a wonderful girl. They both were.”

While Tanya had never spent more than a fortnight in hospital at a time, Hazel tried some new generation therapies, some of which worked for a while and gave her relief. But gradually her hospital admissions became longer and in the last five years her condition deteriorated severely.

“She would have been a very independent person, she had her own car, she used to drive to matches, she would never go on holidays to Spain or France, but she might manage an overnight stay in Dublin but would link up with St Vincent’s Hospital just in case.

“She did a childminding course as she loved small kids and did work for a little while but her illness got in the way.”

Eventually Hazel had to be on a daily drip and take steroids continuously for pain relief. She went into hospital on January 2 last year and never returned home. She died on October 29.

Mary insists that she would have been happy to be in University Hospital Galway, among people she loved so dearly.

“She idolised the staff in the hospital, and they idolised her. Both of the girls did,” she recalls.

“[Consultant Endocrinologist] Prof [Tim] O’Brien said to us for the interns coming along in August, they’re going to be at such a loss. Every single one of them was sent to Hazel. She was able to do her own bloods, calculate blood doses, measure her meds. She was so in tune with her treatment. If they were in doubt, they’d come back and check with her.”

It’s been a difficult road for the entire family, with midnight trips to the emergency department if one of them suddenly took poorly. Mary recalls travelling to the UK for treatment with Hazel when Ruth was about to begin her Leaving Cert.

“To be honest so many people ask me how I coped. Hand on heart I don’t know. You do what you have to do don’t you? I never thought about trying to get support. I’d meet my husband at the door, one of us was always coming and going from the hospital to be with her. You just got on with things,” she says.

“The team at the hospital was just fantastic for both of them. From the nursing staff, the kitchen staff, porters, cleaners. She was like part of them because she would have spent so much time there.”

Some staff treated both sisters. They have decided to create two scholarships in their names, which will support a medical student and a nursing student at NUI Galway.

“They are remembered with such fondness by other patients as well as staff at the Diabetes Centre who got to know them so well over the years. The sisters left a deep and lasting impression, particularly because of their extraordinary courage,” said a spokesperson for the centre.

■ To raise funds for the bursaries, donations can be made to Diabetes Care West. Contact Garrett Hurley, Diabetes Unit 091 542148 on Ext 2720 or email

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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