When Eimear Smyth passed away, her family promised her that they’d raise awareness for stem cell donation in the most fun way possible.
The West Belfast woman was 22 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and died just three years later after complications from a Donor Stem Cell transplant.
Today, Eimear’s family and friends continue to raise awareness for stem cell donation, organ donation and blood cancer as part of Eimear’s Wish.
From fundraisers to pink glazed donuts, everything the Smyth’s have done in memory of Eimear has been fun, so they decided to take things up a notch and create a Gin brand named after the woman who taught them so much in life and death.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Eimear’s dad Sean said the Gin has proved popular from across Ireland and beyond.
“Eimear’s Wish Gin has taken a life of its own, people are really interested. We are getting requests from all over, and then when people try it they’re asking for me. And the Wolf and Whistle in West Belfast are actually going to run a cocktail for us too.
“Our Eimear loved lemon and strawberry sherbet so they have agreed to run a pink lemon sherbet cocktail in memory of Eimear, and it launched on September 4 so we are looking forward to that.
“Everything we want to do, and have done in the past has been fun. See standing and shaking a bucket saying ‘give me your money,’ we don’t want to do that. And we don’t want to make it sad, because there is enough sadness in the world.
Eimear just loved dancing, and her social life. She loved coffee and donuts and now and again would take a wee Gin. She wasn’t a big drinker but she would love having a Gin named after her.
“And the idea is to create a legacy for Eimear and to get people talking about stem cell donation, blood cancer and organ donation.”
Eimear’s Wish are asking for a 30 charitable donation which will be divided equally between Action Cancer, Cancer Fund for Children and Anthony Nolan Stem Cell – and in turn you’ll get a bottle of Eimear’s Gin.
All three charitable groups have helped Eimear and the Smyth family throughout their darkest days.
“Action Cancer was very, very good to us. Cancer Fund for Children looked out for Eimear and Anthony Nolan are helping to raise that awareness,” said Sean.
“There are not enough people in Northern Ireland on the stem cell list, especially from the BAME community. If you are a white European, there’s a 70% chance that you will find a match, but if you are from the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic community that chance is 20% because your tissue is more difficult to match. So we need more people from those backgrounds to join.
“Before Eimear, I didn’t know much about stem cell donation, I didn’t know that stem cell and bone marrow was the same thing. I always thought it was two separate things.
“Our problem was that Eimear was only 22. She had just graduated and was taking the year out to get the money to go on to do a PGCE to become a teacher. She didn’t smoke and rarely drank, she had a good healthy lifestyle. No cancer in my side of the family or Eimear’s mummy’s side. If that can happen to Eimear, it can happen to anyone, and that was really frightening.
“Awareness if one part of it, but the other part is to get better facilities, more age appropriate facilities for our young people who are going through this.”
Throughout her illness, Eimear was treated in the City Hospital.
Hailing the medical care his daughter received, Sean says he would like to see more “age appropriate settings” for young adults for treatment.
“Eimear couldn’t open the window to feel air on her skin when she was there. The TVs don’t work. There’s nowhere for relatives to sleep and there is one small fridge for 24 people. The facilities are from 1986. It is a horrible place to die.
“People have got to understand that we do not have age appropriate care for teenagers and young adults. They’re sitting beside a 70-year-old man who is also ill, it’s not fair on either patient to be in that situation.
“Eimear lived in Leeds and was treated in St James’ Hospital and the unit she was in was brilliant. It was for patients aged 17-24. You walk in and there’s a fully stocked kitchen for parents. The wards are a four people maximum. The far end of the ward is a youth club, it has snooker tables, jukeboxes, all the games consoles.
“The outpatients come for their chemo and their friends come with them for company. It is brilliant but we have nothing here. If we hadn’t been in England we wouldn’t have known the difference, we would have just thought it was the norm.
“The environment isn’t nice at all. These are our kids. They’re told those three words ‘you’ve got cancer’ and that is heartbreaking. The only thing I want is for the young people to be able to look at something other than beige colour walls. They deserve better.
“Nothing will ever bring my daughter back, but if we can make it a bit easy for another family or child, then we’ll do that – it was Eimear’s Wish.”
For more information on how to donate, how to order a bottle or Eimear’s Wish Gin or to stock it in your premises CLICK HERE.
You can register as a stem cell donor with the Anthony Nolan Trust or DKMS.