Kellie Tallant is not looking forward to the next few months. She has a rare lung condition that regularly lands her in hospital.

"I'm dreading this winter," she says.

"The only way to describe it is as mental and physical torture."

She knows all too well about the extra strains on the health service as the colder weather sets in.

Last winter she spent 42 hours on a trolley in a corridor of an Emergency Department.

"The only way to describe it is as mental and physical torture," she says.

"Not only to be sick but to spend hours awake for 42 hours with no sleep because you're under bright lights. There's a lot of commotion in the ED as you can imagine. It's mental and physical torture."

Added to the situation this season of course is the fact that we're in a pandemic.

The CEO of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid, has said the coming winter "will be more difficult than ever before".

"She cries all the time, and asks for the pain to stop. She asks why does nobody help her."

These are worrying times for those already awaiting treatment.

The concerns can be felt at the Donoghue household in Co Mayo.

Twelve-year-old Ella was diagnosed with scoliosis earlier this year.

Ella's scoliosis X-ray 

Her mother, Sinead, says her daughter is in real pain.

"She can't get out of bed in the morning. She can't go to sleep at night. Her back spasms, so she can't go in the car. She was due to start secondary school two weeks ago and she could only attend for two days because of the pain in her back. She cries all the time, and asks for the pain to stop. She asks why does nobody help her... Ella is really suffering," she says.

Sinead Donoghue

Ella was told she needed an urgent operation within four months - that was four months ago.

The family still have received no date for her operation, and they're worried the winter and Covid-19 will delay it even further.

"How long does Ella have to wait before she gets her life back?" Sinead asks.

Ella with her mother, Sinead Donoghue

The Scoliosis Advocacy Network says in September 2019 there were 149 children waiting for surgery. One year on, the figure now stands at 210.

"It's critical that they help our children who are suffering and do it fast. There is no excuses, including funding... there's nothing that's okay about this. They're the children of this country that are crippled and that are slipping away," Sinead says.

Both Kellie and Sinead hope today's winter plan goes some way to help them in the coming months but it's clear this winter will be a long one for some. 


Read more:
Will the HSE Winter Plan cure fundamental service ills?
Mixed reaction from politicians, health workers to Winter Plan