West Dublin teen denied medical card asks why she is 'punished for having cancer'

'Why is my life not important enough for them to help me?'

A Dublin teenager who has been denied a medical card while she is battling a rare form of leukemia has asked the Taoiseach why she is being "punished for having cancer".

Orla O'Farrell, 19, posted an open letter to Leo Varadkar and the Government on social media over the weekend.

The former supermarket worker had been due to start a new job in a bank before she was diagnosed with the disease in August.

The Clonsilla woman had applied for a medical card to cover the cost of her medical expenses, which are likely to run into the thousands, but was refused on the grounds that her father's income was too high.

While her father earns a reasonably good wage, Orla's mother has given up work to care for her and also looks after her elderly parents. Her dad also supports his cousin, who has a number of health issues.

In the letter, Orla said: "With only one income in the house it's hard enough paying all the bills and the household costs and travel to and from the hospital, not forgetting the €9 a day for parking every time I'm in here (which is a lot)."

She pleaded with the Taoiseach and Government officials to help her, writing: "Why is a 19 year old girl being given added stress over this when she already has enough stress about living with a life threatening illness? Why am I being punished for having cancer? And lastly, why is my life not important enough for them to help me?"

Orla told Dublin Live her parents appealed the decision as she was too ill in hospital to do it herself but the appeal was rejected.

She said: "We had letters from the social work department in the hospital and from my doctor saying that they seriously advise them to give it to me only for the duration of my illness. We don't want it for any longer than that."

People aged between 16 and 25 who live with their parents are considered to be dependents when applying for a medical card unless they have income over the medical card income limit for a single person living with family.

"If I was two years younger, I'd get a medical card straight away and if I was six years older, based on my own income from the job that I had before I had to stop working because of my illness, I'd get a medical card," said Orla.

"Until I was sick, I wasn't reliant on my parents. I had a job, I wasn't in college, so I was completely independent so it just doesn't make any sense really.

"I think anyone that has a very serious, life-threatening illness should get help. I'm just very frustrated about it."

The brave teen has been contacted by a number of other people with similar problems obtaining medical cards since she posted the letter on Saturday.

"There's one girl whose mam has had leukemia for the past 10 years and she still hasn't gotten because her husband's income is too high and I just think it's ridiculous," she said.

Orla's treatment is working well and she is confident of making a full recovery, although she added she could do without the additional stress of fighting for the medical card.

"I've just done my second round of chemo there which is the first consolidation round to kind of keep the leukemia away," she said.

"I can't leave my house or anything because my immune system is too low so I'm stuck at home. It's horrible. So much is going on around me and I just have to watch it go by."

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