A hospital in honour of my wife, providing life-changing surgery for children

Opening of Jean Carley Children’s Hospital in Uganda to be celebrated at RDS charity concert

A hospital in honour of my wife, providing life-changing surgery for children

Liz, shown here, will be able to take full part in school games and sports without any pain after surgery at the Jean Carley Children’s Hospital.

Robert and Jean Carley were working with children in Uganda when the idea came up.  

The couple had first visited the country in 2009 with charity Zest4Kidz to help support former child soldiers. Two years later, along with their children, they returned to assist boys and girls with physical disabilities.

Most of the children they met there could not afford basic medical care or support services.

And when one doctor pointed out that those operated on were prone to infection because they had no place to rehabilitate, Jean's instinctive response was: “Why don’t we build a hospital?” The couple decided to start raising money with the hope of one day opening up a new facility for young patients.

But just two weeks after they returned from Uganda, Jean died suddenly from an aneurysm. At her funeral, Robert told friends and family that he would see that the hospital was built in her honour.

On St Patrick’s Day 2016, after years of planning, the ribbon was finally cut on the Jean Carley Children’s Hospital in Kuma, a town in the country’s eastern region.

In partnership with a local orthopaedic hospital, the 28-bed Zest4Kidz facility provides a base for children going through life-changing surgery and covers costs for those who cannot afford to pay.

The majority of patients have physical disabilities that are easily operable: a cleft lip, club foot or bone deformities.

But the hospital requires urgent funds to support its work. And later this month, Irish soprano Celine Byrne will headline a concert in aid of the centre at the RDS.

Ms Byrne will be joined on stage by pianist Dearbhla Brosnan, violinist Lynda O’Connor and mezzo-soprano Gina Oberoi for a rendition of traditional Irish and opera classics.

Tickets for the event on May 29th are €25 each and available through the Ticketmaster website. The concert will cover the cost of at least 20 operations, if it sells out.

For Robert, the culmination of the project marks a new chapter as well as a way to honour his wife, who he first met at the age of 13. 

“When you lose someone close to you, anything that feels like the full stop of a sentence usually hurts,” Robert told Newstalk.com.

“I thought I’d be distraught to see this project end. But if feels like a new beginning, not an ending.”

Robert's message in the hospital's visitors' book: "We did it, Jean!"