‘Chester Across Group has been travelling to Lourdes since 1994,’ says Tony Murphy, ‘but the story below must rank amongst the highest in terms of demonstrating how Across can make the impossible, possible.’ Mum Bev writes.

On behalf of my son AJ and our whole family I would like to thank you for an AMAZING trip! 

Some people when they learn their child has a life limiting condition choose Disney land, Lap land to see Santa or swim with dolphins… My only wish was to take AJ, now aged two years and four months, to Lourdes.  I told anyone that might listen to me how I had a dream, a wish to take my special son to Lourdes.  I priced it up several times but thought it was not possible given how he was depending more and more on medical intervention’s such as oxygen, suction, overnight ventilation etc.  Plus he does not travel light!

Then in early August I spoke to a lady that I can only describe as my guardian angel Sr. Frances.  She had heard about AJ and our longing to experience Lourdes.  The next thing I knew I was speaking to Tony Murphy of the Chester Across Group, soon learning he only expected Yorkshire tea no less! Luckily for us I too only drink Yorkshire tea and within an hour, Tony had explained what was involved and I was hopeful I may get to take AJ to Lourdes after all.

I had to apply for Passports but being me I forgot about the EHIC card. Tony sorted our local MP to arrange for it to be given to us that very day! I was amazed by his ability to arrange whatever we needed, including the oxygen during the journey and for each day in Lourdes. 

I had some people think this trip was impossible given how ill AJ was and is I guess but I had faith in all of these lovely kind people, who do not even know us yet, were arranging the trip of a lifetime as I now know it…. It still blows my mind away!  I have never experienced kindness and willingness to help another as much as I did on this trip.  From the organiser’s Tony and Val Creasey to the drivers taking us there and back safely, the helpers that were there were just wonderful.  Nothing was too much and they all made us feel part of everything and were very competent nurses and helpers. 

The Jumbulance itself is a fundamental part of getting AJ there safely and comfortably.  Flying with all of his medical equipment would have been almost impossible so having the space to bring everything he needed was really helpful.  AJ also needs to be flat or on his side as he does not do well in a seated position for very long as he struggles to breathe properly. Having the bed to get him comfortable on was just perfect for him.  Having the plug and oxygen meant he could have his CPAP (vent) on during the long journey maintaining good airway and keeping him safe.  On the way home AJ was quite unwell and had several bad seizures as soon as we set off.  Maria and Jo helped me keep calm and talked to me about AJs condition, they were both very knowledgeable and keen to lean more to assist in any way.  It was so reassuring knowing they were there.   Tony had paired the helpers to the VIPs perfectly using their strengths to the VIPs needs.  That man is AMAZING!!! 

I must say Maria Donlan (a trainee midwife!) and Joe Donlan (a trainee paediatric nurse!) were just fantastic in every way. I am so honoured to have met them.  I shared a room with Maria and on the first day I felt overwhelmed and tired.  I thought I wanted to go home and if it were not for Maria’s advice.  I am so glad I never, because after a good chat and a rest I joined in with everything and loved it! 

I really liked how we had things planned for each day.  Things like going to have Mass in small churches and watching the story behind Lourdes DVD.  We went to see where St Bernadette lived and even where she made her first communion.  It has inspired me to reconnect with my faith and I want to do my Holy Communion too some day.

The hotel was lovely and the food was tasty. I liked how we ate together and went out together too. I felt safe and secure throughout.

Together the whole experience was one of pleasure and a challenge for all the right reasons.  We had things to be up for.  We had places booked to see to get the very most from our trip of a lifetime.  I really think that having Farther Corrigan was just wonderful.  I felt like a VIP the whole journey but to have him host a Mass each day was an honour for me and to have him bless my AJ I would cry tears of pure joy, hope and elation. 

AJ’s future before we left was bleak to us all.  I was not hopeful for our future with him in it and so nothing was good.  Now after our journey and experiencing pure love and kindness I am hopeful in my sons future whatever God thinks that will be.  He has just got a place at school, they say he can come and go as he wants given his condition.  I hope they are ready for this amazing little AJ. Thanks to Across I again see the sparkle in his eyes. Thank you doesn’t seem enough but I just can’t thank every person involved in getting us there enough!

Tony adds, ‘Bev did miss out an extraordinary event that Tony didn’t plan – she got stuck in the lift at the Domain! We had just had Mass at the St John Vianney Chapel and half the Group had left the building but Bev, AJ and Joe got stuck in the lift! Ironically, we were due to have the Group Photograph by the Crowned Virgin statue but the ‘Group’ photograph below was not the one Tony planned! The trio were able to clamber out of the lift but a couple of VIPs had to be man-handled down the stairs by Lourdes staff.

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