The Budget contraception scheme still holds women in Ireland responsible for safe sex
The Budget contraception scheme still holds women in Ireland responsible for safe sex

Kate Demolder

‘Romy & Michele’ actress Cortney Wolfston on being fired while pregnant
‘Romy & Michele’ actress Cortney Wolfston on being fired while pregnant

Sarah Finnan

Ireland’s best autumnal forest walks
Ireland’s best autumnal forest walks

Sarah Finnan

With a two-hour Oprah special, Adele is truly giving the people what they want
With a two-hour Oprah special, Adele is truly giving the people what they want

Megan Burns

Want to move your workout indoors this winter? Here’s everything you need
Want to move your workout indoors this winter? Here’s everything you need

Shayna Sappington

What’s on October 2021: The new TV, streaming shows, books and podcasts to try
What’s on October 2021: The new TV, streaming shows, books and podcasts to try

Sarah Finnan

The IMAGE Shopping Basket: What’s new to the highstreet shops this week
The IMAGE Shopping Basket: What’s new to the highstreet shops this week

Lauren Heskin

These toys are expected to the big hits for Christmas 2021
These toys are expected to the big hits for Christmas 2021

Sarah Finnan

This Rathmines home is on the market for €1.975 million
This Rathmines home is on the market for €1.975 million

Megan Burns

The luxury advent calendars to buy now (before they sell out!)
The luxury advent calendars to buy now (before they sell out!)

Sarah Finnan

Image / Editorial

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister


by Amanda Cassidy
28th Jan 2019
‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister

Amanda Cassidy speaks to Juniper’s Aunt about the lead up to the little girl’s diagnosis and why her family is appealing to Health Minister, Simon Harris to take urgent action. 


Up until a few weeks ago, Juniper’s parents were preparing to spend their first Christmas as new parents in their new home. Six-month-old Juniper had seemed perfectly healthy up until she started to develop a rash and a chesty cough. After two weeks in Tallaght hospital, she was sent home with antibiotics but developed more infections a week later. Reluctant to seem like overly neurotic new parents but increasingly concerned that their little girl wasn’t getting any better, the couple brought her back into the hospital. Blood tests revealed some devastating news; Juniper has a rare and life-threatening genetic condition known as SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency).

Doctors explained to her family that as the little girl has no immune system, she is more susceptible to dangerous infections. Treatment to save her life would involve travelling to the UK for a bone marrow transplant. Family and friends rallied and raised over 55 thousand euro to alleviate financial costs for her treatment, with any surplus funds now being passed on to help other families going through similar.

“You are not alone”

This week, Juniper and her parents arrived in the UK to prepare for treatment which begins at the end of February.  They were also thrilled to discover that Juniper’s mum can be her donor. They are preparing themselves to have to remain in the UK for possibly up to a year.  Her devastated parents also want others going through the same to know they are not alone. “Although our focus is on getting Juniper better, we want to raise awareness of SCID as the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the outcome and we want other families to avoid what we have been through.”

There is currently no charity or supports for those families living with SCID in Ireland. Juniper’s parents, although devastated by their daughter’s diagnosis, are more determined than ever to raise awareness about her illness and have appealed to the Irish Health Minister Simon Harris to introduce screening in the form of the heel-prick test for newborns. In a petition that has already received almost 3 thousand signatures, they’ve questioned why they, as non-medical professionals,  are the ones who have to fight for this. “Internationally, this screening has already been included, with success, in New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan and every state in the US. Pilot schemes have also started in Israel, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK. Moreover, studies in these countries have also concluded that early diagnosis in the heel prick test and treatment prior to infection is more cost effective to the healthcare system.”

The treatment for this condition (haematopoietic stem cell transplant-HSCT) has a much higher success rate if diagnosed early and before the affected infant acquires infections. The incidence in Ireland is approximately 1 in 37,000 children (1-2 cases per year); making it more common than half the diseases currently included in the test. In Ireland, the majority of SCID cases are not diagnosed until the affected infant develops symptoms of infection.

Survival rates after HSCT in children with SCID diagnosed late and with infection have been reported at approximately 70%. Children diagnosed and treated early (before 3 months of age), before they have acquired any infections, have a much better chance of survival. (90%)

“Their darkest hour”

Speaking to IMAGE.ie, Juniper’s paternal Aunt, Jeannie Higgins says that without any evidence of family history of SCID (which is a genetic condition), the only way of knowing if your child is at risk is by including it in the heel-prick test. “Part of the treatment means that Juniper will likely get sicker before she gets better which is going to be hard, but we are determined to remain positive. Juniper is a very strong little girl – she is such a happy and content little baby. This campaign to raise awareness of SCID and to fight for screening is a testament to her parents who, in their darkest hour, are thinking of other families who might be affected. Her diagnosis of SCID has been devastating and shocking, especially considering that up to a few weeks ago it seemed as if she was thriving. Due to the lack of testing for SCID, she spent 3 weeks in the hospital, on 3 different courses of antibiotics, while deteriorating rapidly before an accurate diagnosis was made. We are her voice – she shouldn’t have had to endure what she’s endured; blood transfusions, skin infections, pneumonia, winter vomiting bugs – when a simple blood test at birth could have prevented Juniper from contracting these infections and given her a higher chance at survival”.

“Our message to the Minister on behalf of Juniper is simple; Don’t let other babies have to go through what she is going through.”

The hardest thing

Right now, all her mum and dad’s energy is focused on being at Junipers bedside, getting her through her treatment and fighting on behalf of other children with this illness. “While we know this is going to be one of the hardest things we will have to do, knowing that we have the support and positive energy of so many people behind us is going to make it that much easier. Juniper is also a fighter, with the biggest character and we have no doubt she will be the one keeping us going throughout”.

You can sign the petition for the Health Minister here. 

Juniper’s GoFundMe page can be found here and includes regular updates from her family.

Also Read

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
EDITORIAL
Trinity Tales: ‘Front Square was her garden, and the city was her playground’

Annie Gatling, now Colleran, knew Trinity College was for her when she saw Front Gate from the top storey of...

By Amanda Cassidy

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
premium EDITORIAL
Business Club members get your complimentary tickets to The IMAGE Business Summit 2021

Don’t miss this year’s IMAGE Business Summit, with an expert line-up, skills masterclasses, keynote addresses and more.Back by popular demand,...

By Shayna Sappington

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
EDITORIAL
This spatchcock chicken recipe will make your weekend

This is a great way to get a juicy roast chicken, bursting with flavour.     Bord Bia’s Spatchcock Chicken...

By Meg Walker

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
EDITORIAL
How to limit drips and brush strokes while painting kitchen cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets can be transformative and can be achieved relatively low-cost, but you need the right equipment, and a lot of...

By Amanda Kavanagh

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
EDITORIAL
How to let go of toxic people, and the signs to recognise

By Niamh Ennis

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
EDITORIAL
‘Romy & Michele’ actress Cortney Wolfston on being fired while pregnant

“I was confused. Hadn’t I just been told this was a perfect time to be pregnant?” she questioned. Actress Cortney...

By Sarah Finnan

‘Our little fighter’: Baby Juniper and her heartbreaking message to the Health Minister
AGENDA, EDITORIAL
No, the Olympics haven’t given athletes ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds

Despite some media coverage, the beds are actually focused on sustainability as opposed to intimacy restrictions. Recently, distance runner Paul...

By Jennifer McShane