Firefighters to climb Ben Nevis in full gear in aid of Dublin nurse


A group of firefighters are preparing to scale the UK’s highest peak in aid of a Dublin nurse who is undergoing potentially life-saving cancer treatment.

he challenge is part of a series of fundraisers which have taken place in recent months for 36-year-old Ciara Barry, who needs to raise €500,000 for a cancer treatment trial in the United States.

Next week firefighters from Dolphin’s Barn Fire Station will climb Ben Nevis and the mammoth task will be made even harder by the fact that all those taking part will be wearing their full firefighting kits.

Ben Nevis, in Scotland, stands 1,345 metres above sea level, making it the highest mountain range in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The climb is expected to take approximately nine hours.

Ciara Barry has battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three times in her short life, twice as a teenager and then again in her 20s.

Midway through her 30s she developed an aggressive type of blood cancer called High Risk Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and she has undergone a year and a half of treatment at St James’ Hospital, Dublin.

Despite every effort, her blood cancer did not respond to treatment, and she was informed that palliative care was her only remaining option.

Not wanting to take the diagnosis lying down, Mrs Barry began researching international medical trials and she has been offered a place on a clinical trial for Car T- Cell Therapy at the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Tampa, Florida, which started this month.

Mrs Barry is currently in Tampa and the treatment has started but she is still in the early stages of her time there.

CAR T-cell therapy works by engineering the patient’s own cells so that they attack the disease.

The therapy is available for people who are battling specific types of blood cancer in Ireland, but Mrs Barry’s form of the disease is not included.

The Tampa clinical trial requires a minimum stay of six weeks and Mrs Barry has been advised that the estimated cost of all the medical treatment could reach over €500,000.

Over €350,000 has been raised for Mrs Barry so far via a dedicated  GoFundMe page and Ciara’s friends hope the Ben Nevis challenge can propel the fundraising effort past the €500,000 mark. 

One of the main organiser of next week’s climb is Dolphin’s Barn firefighter Neil Cusker, who is a close friend of Ciara and her husband Paddy and was a groomsman at their wedding.

Mr Cusker is hopeful that by taking on the challenge he and his colleagues will bring Ciara closer to reaching the required amount.

“Ciara’s bravery and determination in her battle against cancer is an inspiration to us all, and we wanted to do something to highlight her cause, particularly amongst our colleagues in the emergency services and fellow healthcare professionals,” he said.

It comes as last month Bernadette D’Arcy, who is from Dublin but lives in Wicklow Town, shaved her head to raise money for Mrs Barry’s treatment. 

Despite not knowing Ciara personally, Ms D’Arcy said she read about the fundraising campaign and decided she wanted to do something to help.

Ms D’Arcy said she spoke with a friend, who has a family connection to the Barry family about her plan, and they were grateful for the support.

When asked why she decided to shave her head for this cause, Ms D’Arcy said “it’s my contribution, my donation to help get Ciara to America for treatment.”

“Cancer has also touched my family. Ciara’s so young and she deserves a fighting chance.

“I believe in helping others. The world can be a better place if we all help each other.

“Some people’s attitude is to let someone else do it. I think I’m someone else so I’ll do it,” Ms D’Arcy added.

Ciara Barry told that a chance to take part in the US cancer treatment trial means “everything” to her.

“Car T [therapy] has been giving people remissions and great results and it’s a chance to beat this and it’s the possibility of having my life ahead of me again and it not ending at 36,” she said.

“I always knew the Irish were generous, but they hear a story and they want to do what they can.

“I’ve had people contacting me trying to arrange accommodation in Florida, trying to see if there is anything to can do about the flight. Ireland is just so great for such a tiny island. It’s mad what can happen when people put their heads together.”


Charity climb set to take place on Wednesday June 22

The Dolphin’s Barn Fire Station Ben Nevis challenge will take place on Wednesday June 22.

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