An Infection Unnoticed Turns Unstoppable – New York Times

An Infection Unnoticed Turns Unstoppable

Published:  July 11, 2013
New York Times

By Jim Dwyer


For a moment, an emergency room doctor stepped away from the scrum of people working on Rory Staunton, 12, and spoke to his parents.

“Your son is seriously ill,” the doctor said.

“How seriously?” Rory’s mother, Orlaith Staunton, asked.

The doctor paused.

“Gravely ill,” he said.

How could that be?

Two days earlier, diving for a basketball at his school gym, Rory had cut his arm. He arrived at his pediatrician’s office the next day, Thursday, March 29, vomiting, feverish and with pain in his leg. He was sent to the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center. The doctors agreed: He was suffering from an upset stomach and dehydration. He was given fluids, told to take Tylenol, and sent home.

Partially camouflaged by ordinary childhood woes, Rory’s condition was, in fact, already dire. Bacteria had gotten into his blood, probably through the cut on his arm. He was sliding into a septic crisis, an avalanche of immune responses to infection from which he would not escape. On April 1, three nights after he was sent home from the emergency room, he died in the intensive care unit. The cause was severe septic shock brought on by the infection, hospital records say.

Because sepsis, a leading cause of death in hospitals, can at first look like less serious ailments, a campaign to aggressively identify it for early treatment has been undertaken by a consortium of 55 hospitals in the New York region, including NYU Langone.

Yet nowhere along Rory’s journey, from boy with a bellyache on Thursday to gravely ill boy on Friday night, did anyone act on strong indications that he might be fighting for his life. Critical information gathered by his family doctor and during his first visit to NYU Langone was not used, was not at hand or was not viewed as important when decisions were made about his care, records show.

Moments after an emergency room doctor ordered Rory’s discharge believing fluids had made him better, his vital signs, recorded while still at the hospital, suggested that he could be seriously ill. Even more pointed signals emerged three hours later, when the Stauntons were at home: the hospital’s laboratory reported that Rory was producing vast quantities of cells that combat bacterial infection, a warning that sepsis could be on the horizon.

The Stauntons knew nothing of his weak vital signs or abnormal lab results.

“Nobody said anything that night,” Ms. Staunton said. “None of you followed up the next day on that kid, and he’s at home, dying on the couch?”

NYU Langone declined to discuss any aspects of Rory’s care or hospital procedures.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family at this difficult time,” said Lisa Greiner, a hospital spokeswoman.

The Stauntons shared Rory’s medical records with a reporter for The New York Times who had met the boy last summer in a social setting. A full airing of the case, along with a commitment to reforms, his parents said, could save lives. They have hired a lawyer, Thomas A. Moore, but have not decided how they will proceed.


Rory Staunton, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 169 pounds, was big for his age and a student of the world. “The most profound 12-year-old I had ever met,” his debate coach, Kevin Burgoyne, said. For his birthday, his parents gave him flying lessons after Rory, who spent hours on a flight simulator, tracked down an aviation school that accepted students at 12. He devoured the memoir of Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who safely brought down an airliner on the Hudson River.

“I told him, ‘Sully did some fast math landing that plane,’ and for a short while, he was paying attention to math,” said Ciaran Staunton, Rory’s father. “Then he came back with, ‘Yeah, but by the time I’m a pilot they’ll have a faster way of doing it.’ ”

Rory and his sister, Kathleen, 10, grew up in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, which their parents, Irish immigrants, regarded as a global village of sublime pleasures: shared courtyards, a rich brew of cultures and merry mobs of children rolling from house to house. Ms. Staunton, the former director of an international student exchange, said neighborhood kids formed their own country, Kidadelphia, designed a flag, and adapted the United States motto for their slogan: “In God and Fun We Trust.” Rory was president. When he was 8, he raided his piggy bank to treat his parents to a Chinese dinner for their wedding anniversary. At the private Garden School in Jackson Heights, he was elected to the student council in seventh grade and led a campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word, to curtail the casual, derogatory use of the term “retarded.”

Last summer, his uncle, a friend of mine, brought Rory, Kathleen and their mother to stay in my family’s vacation home for two nights. Rory would go from barreling down a water slide backward to sizing up President Obama’s prospects for re-election. Fascinated by North Korea, he tried to fathom how a country so afflicted by famine could afford a large army. (His parents recently found a note in his computer to the Swedish ambassador to North Korea.)

At home, said Mr. Staunton, a civic activist and bar owner, they would have nightly shouting matches over homework Rory had not done or dirty clothes he had not picked up, in between scoping out corners of global history.

During gym class on Wednesday, March 28, he dived for a ball and opened a cut on his arm. That night, Ms. Staunton said, Rory mentioned it: “How he presented it to me was, ‘I fell in the gym. Mr. D, the athletic director, put the Band-Aids on. And, I got the ball.’ ”

Then he finished his homework and went to bed.


The bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes is part of the human ecosystem, normally dwelling in the throat or on the skin, areas where the body is well defended. Also known as Group A streptococcus, the strain typically causes strep throat or impetigo.

But if it is able to penetrate soft tissue or blood, “it moves very quickly,” said Dr. Michael B. Edmond, the chairman of the division of infectious diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The mortality rate is high. The clinical findings early in the infection can be relatively subtle.”

The challenge for physicians is recognizing an invasive infection, whether from Group A strep or other pathogens, before the cascading damage of sepsis has picked up too much speed. The consortium of New York hospitals has a goal of starting antibiotics within an hour of spotting sepsis in the emergency room, according to officials with the Greater New York Hospital Association’s Stop Sepsis program.

For every hour’s delay in giving antibiotics after very low blood pressure had set in, a study found, the survival rate decreased by 7.6 percent.


Shortly after midnight on March 29, Ms. Staunton heard Rory retching in the bathroom. “There wasn’t a huge amount of vomit, but he kept saying, ‘My leg, my leg, Mom,’ ” she recalled. Back in bed, he moaned. His mother rubbed his thigh. In the morning, he was weak, his leg still hurt, and his temperature was 104 degrees, his highest ever.

The parents began calling Dr. Susan Levitzky, who had been the family pediatrician for about five years. She saw Rory that evening.

“He was leaning on me as we were walking up to the office, because he could hardly stand from the weakness or pain in his leg,” Ms Staunton said. In the waiting room, Rory vomited. When the doctor swabbed his throat, he vomited on her. The swab test, a rapid but not definitive detector of strep, was negative.

“We showed her the cut on his elbow, and I saw her follow up his arm from the cut,” Ms. Staunton said. “She said, ‘The cut’s not an issue.’ She focused on his stomach. We said, ‘Although you see him throwing up, that’s not what he’s really complaining about.’ Rory and I both said to her that it’s the pain in his leg that’s really bothering him.”

The doctor told them that the leg pain might be from falling in the gym. “Rory said, ‘It wasn’t a fall, it was a skid,’ ” Ms. Staunton recalled.

The parents also remarked that Rory’s skin became blotchy when they pressed a finger on it. Those concerns were well-founded, said Dr. Edmond, the infectious disease specialist, who was not involved in Rory’s care: The mottling, which Dr. Levitzky made note of, could mean that vessels in his skin were constricting from low blood pressure; the leg pain could mean an invasive infection. Rory’s temperature was 102 and his pulse was 140; he was taking 36 breaths a minute. These, too, were “worrisome” observations, Dr. Edmond said.

Nevertheless, Ms. Staunton said, she did not recall being told that any of his vital signs were off: “She said, ‘Make your way over to NYU, and get him rehydrated. He’s vomiting now. He’s going to feel better, and tomorrow, he’ll have diarrhea.’ ”

In a brief phone conversation, Dr. Levitzky said she could not discuss the case. “I sent him to a major medical center,” she said.


Rory arrived at NYU Langone, on First Avenue near 34th Street, at 7:14 that evening and was discharged about two hours later. Hospital records do not reflect any communication with Dr. Levitzky or her findings about the mottled skin.

Like Dr. Levitzky, the NYU physicians believed that Rory’s discomfort was caused by a sick stomach and dehydration. His chart states that “labs, IVF, Zofran” were ordered.Zofran is an antinausea drug; two bags of intravenous fluids, or IVF, were administered; three vials of blood were drawn and sent to the hospital laboratory.

“They did the various checks, up, down, back and forth,” Mr. Staunton said.

A screening tool in the Stop Sepsis program, used when a patient first arrives in the emergency room, calls special attention to a person with three symptoms of a possible eight. At the hospital, Rory showed two: he was breathing 20 times per minute and his pulse was 143.

Two hours later, though, he had three: his temperature had risen to 102, his pulse was 131 and his respiration rate was 22. But by the time those vital signs were recorded, at 9:26 p.m., they had no bearing on his treatment. In fact, the doctor had already decided that Rory was going home. Rory’s “ExitCare” instructions, signed by his father, were printed 12 minutes before those readings.

To the pediatrician who examined and discharged Rory, it seemed that the fluids had done the trick. “Pt improved,” the doctor, Camille Scribner, wrote, prescribing “home supportive care.” There is no sign in the records that Dr. Scribner, described by a senior colleague as “hyper-conscientious,” considered alternative explanations.

“They stated that it was a common flu that was going around,” Mr. Staunton said. “It would start off as high temperature and throwing up, and would end up as diarrhea.”

Dr. Scribner could not be reached for comment through the hospital.

As the Stauntons walked Rory onto First Avenue, the air temperature was in the mid-40s. “He was freezing,” Ms. Staunton said. “He took my coat leaving the hospital. It has a little frilly thing around the collar.”

“Not a thing that a boy of 12 would put on,” Mr. Staunton said.


About three hours later, Rory’s lab results were printed. He was producing neutrophils and bands, white blood cells, at rates that were “very abnormal and would suggest a serious bacterial infection,” Dr. Edmond said.

The Stauntons said they heard nothing about it. In bed, Rory “was groaning in his sleep,” Ms. Staunton said. “I felt the heat of the fever.”

At 10 a.m. on Friday, the Stauntons began calling their pediatrician, Dr. Levitzky. “She told us to do a combination of Tylenol and Motrin,” Ms. Staunton said.

Asked last month about the lab findings, Dr. Levitzky, who is associated with NYU Langone, said, “I never knew that testing was done.”

Rory did have the predicted bout of diarrhea on Friday, which momentarily elated his family. Still, he could barely get to the bathroom. The doctor suggested fluids and crackers.

“‘I told her, ‘I’m not sure you’re getting the picture, Dr. Levitzky,’ ” Mr. Staunton said. “‘I can’t even get him to sit up. I don’t know how you expect me to get food into him.’ ”

Later, a slight touch would make him scream. “Around his nose was gone blue,” Mr. Staunton said. “Down his body side was gone blue.”

At that point, Dr. Levitzky told them to return to the emergency room. They supported him as he walked to the car. “All he said was, ‘Can I please have a wheelchair when I get there?’ ” Ms. Staunton recalled.

In the intensive care unit, his parents tried to mask their worry, Mr. Staunton chatting lightly. But Ms. Staunton noticed her son’s eyes following her. “He said, ‘Mom, my toes are really, really cold,’ ” she said.

After extending an arm for blood to be drawn, “he thanked them when they were finished,” Ms. Staunton said.

He had to be put on a ventilator. Just before he was sedated, Ms. Staunton said, “They told him, ‘We need to figure some stuff out. There are some marks on your body, and you need a little bit of help breathing, so we’re just going to intubate you and it’ll be fine.’ ” First, though, they checked his mental status.

“Do you know what date it is?”

“I know it’s March,” Rory answered.

“Who’s the president of the United States?”

He answered: “Barack Obama.”

His mother smiled.

“Ah,” she said, “but Rory, who is going to be the next one?”

“Barack Obama,” he said.

As the next two days passed, doctors tried anything that might halt the shutdown of Rory’s organs. “I can’t say enough about the I.C.U.,” Ms. Staunton said.

Relatives and a priest gathered bedside, talking of Irish football and tomfoolery and politics. Perhaps, one doctor whispered in a fleeting, hopeful aside, Rory might get away with losing his toes and nose. His skin blackened. He passed no urine. His blood would not clot. His heart had to be restarted twice. Three specialists who chronicled Rory’s decline on his intensive care chart each noted that on Thursday night, when he was sent home from the emergency room, he had a fever and significant signs of infection in his blood.

On Sunday night, Dr. Mayer Sagy, who had not seen Rory on his first visit to the hospital but spent the weekend struggling to keep him alive, told the Stauntons that the team had been unable to resuscitate him a third time.

“I said to him, ‘I brought him here to you the other night and you sent him home,’ ” Ms. Staunton said.

“He said, ‘You have every right to be angry.’ ”

More than anything, the Stauntons said, NYU Langone owes an honest accounting of what happened. Racked with loss, they and others remembered Rory as an unflinching champion of schoolyard underdogs.

“Above all,” Ms. Staunton said, “we know that Rory would want no other child to go through what he went through.”

Death by Strep: One Family’s Tragic Loss – Everyday Health

Death by Strep: One Family’s Tragic Loss

By Allison Takeda, Senior Editor

Published: Sunday, June 04, 2012
Everyday Health

Rory Staunton started flying planes when he was still in single digits. He’d sit for hours in front of a flight simulator on his computer, learning the routes from New York to London, or London to Tokyo, or Tokyo to San Francisco. He knew every country in the world by their airports, and he planned to visit all of them.

When his parents told him he had to be at least 16 to take flying lessons, 11-year-old Rory got on the computer and did a little research while his parents were out to dinner.

“I’ve got it!” he said when they returned home. “I found a school in Long Island where you can get flying lessons when you’re 12.”

Rory tended not to give up. On May 13, 2011 — his 12th birthday — he hopped into a two-seater next to his instructor and took off into the sky above Long Island, as his parents, Ciaran and Orlaith, and his little sister, Kathleen, watched from the ground, their hearts in their throats and their hands clasped tightly together.

Less than a year later, Rory was gone, killed by what’s believed to be complications from a common strep infection. Now his family is living its worst nightmare and wondering what could have been done to save their son.

A Simple Scrape Turns Serious

When Rory fell and cut his elbow on Tuesday, March 27, while playing basketball at the Garden School in Queens, N.Y., it wasn’t particularly gruesome. So scant was the blood, he got a bandage and went on his way, his father says.

The next day, Wednesday, the cut reopened. This time, Rory was given two bandages. He seemed fine otherwise, so no further treatment was administered, his parents say. It was just a simple scrape.

But later that night, around 1 a.m., Rory woke up complaining of a strong pain in his leg. He said he needed to vomit. Orlaith massaged the area until her son fell back to sleep, but Rory woke up before morning, achy and feverish. On Thursday, his leg pain was worse. And his temperature was 104.

His parents say they called his pediatrician and left a message. Hours passed, and Rory’s fever continued to rise. They called twice more. An appointment was scheduled for that evening.

By the 6 p.m. appointment, Rory was almost too weak to walk. He had chills, and blue marks were strewn across his body. He threw up as soon as he arrived at the pediatrician’s office, and again while she was examining him. Ciaran Staunton described Rory’s leg pain and mentioned the cut on his elbow. She noticed his throat was red, so she took a swab to test for strep throat.

The results came back negative.

It was probably a stomach bug, his father says she told him. It was going around. To be safe, she recommended he go to the emergency room, where they could put him on IV fluids and give him something to prevent the vomiting.

The Stauntons drove Rory to New York University Medical Center in lower Manhattan. They were extremely worried.

‘A Young, Strapping Guy’

Ciaran Staunton is a hearty man, with a lilting Irish brogue and an easy warmth. He came to the United States from County Mayo more than 30 years ago and has lived the past decade in New York City, where he is a prominent local businessman, the president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and, above all else, a husband and father.

“When Rory was 3 days old,” Staunton says, “I brought him here. This is where we sat. In this corner.”

Staunton nods to a booth in the upstairs restaurant of his bar, O’Neill’s, an Irish pub tucked away between drab gray office buildings in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The place is empty, save for a few bartenders and busboys, and for a moment, he is alone with his son in the memory of that May morning just over a decade ago. He shows how he cradled the baby against his chest, rocking his arms side to side, and his face softens to a warm smile.

“Rory wanted to be a pilot, but he also wanted to make change in the world,” Staunton says. When he was born, his uncle Niall O’Dowd heralded his arrival in the ethnic newspaper the Irish Voice with the headline “Rory Staunton: Will Announce in 2044 for President.”

Rory was a natural leader, with a strong social conscience and a passion for politics that no doubt came from his father. He and his dad were best friends, and Rory often stayed up late during election season to watch the primaries with his dad. Recently, he had helped start a debate team at school. Thanks to his father, Rory had met President Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He’d shaken hands with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. He counted Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King among his heroes. Before he was old enough to vote, he knew more about the world and the people who ran it than many adults know. But in other ways, he was very much a typical 12-year-old.

“Rory was always hanging out here,” Staunton says, referring to O’Neill’s. “He used to swim around the corner at the YMCA, and afterward, he’d come in with his cousin and his sister, and they’d have their fries and their scrambled eggs and then run around downstairs.”

He pulls his son’s school picture from his wallet, one of many photographs he keeps on him and in the bar’s office in the basement. It’s a recent shot, and a nice one: Rory, smiling, his shaggy red hair combed neatly out of his eyes, his broad shoulders turned squarely at the camera.

“He’s a good-looking kid, right? Five-nine, 150 pounds. A young, strapping guy.”

A Case of Strep Goes Horribly Wrong

Just months after the school photo, Rory was nearly unrecognizable when he arrived at the emergency room of New York University Medical Center. He grimaced in pain, and his tall, sturdy frame suddenly seemed smaller and more childlike. His father says that a nurse took him to an observation area, where he was hooked up to IV fluids and examined by two doctors. Both echoed what his pediatrician had said, Staunton recalls. It was probably a stomach bug. There was one going around. Staunton says he wasn’t convinced, but he filled the prescription for Zofran, a stomach medication, and took Rory home.

The next day, Friday, Rory’s condition worsened. He could tolerate only half-spoonfuls of fluid at a time, and he needed help sitting up in bed. He had diarrhea, a fever, and more mysterious blue marks.

By 9 that night, the bruise-like blue marks strafed his body, and Rory’s skin had turned a sickly yellow color. Now the blue marks were accompanied by several bright red spots on his skin. He was desperately weak. Staunton called the pediatrician – his sixth call in two days, he says. This time, she told him to take Rory immediately back to the emergency room. There, doctors swiftly ushered Rory to a bed and an oxygen mask.

“Rory, what day is it?” one of them asked.

“I don’t know, but I know it’s March.”

Staunton has memorized this conversation, and every other conversation from those few days after Rory got sick. He recounts them all almost mechanically, the details pouring forth in one long uninterrupted stream, his voice quiet but steady, his eyes cloudy but unblinking.

“Ask him who the president is,” Orlaith said.

“Rory, who’s the president?”

“Barack Obama.”

“Who will be the president for the next four years?”

Here, Staunton pauses, choking up and unable to continue talking about one of his final conversations with his son. He takes a deep, shaky breath, and then, in a choked whisper, finishes his thought. He begins to weep.

Rory was gravely ill, the ER doctors told Ciaran and Orlaith. Critical, they said. The cut on his elbow had been infected with strep – the same strep for which his pediatrician had swabbed his throat – and it was now attacking his system. His kidneys were failing. He needed oxygen. His arm had turned black as the tissue died from necrosis. They had resuscitated him twice. They were fighting it – Rory was fighting it – but he was sick, and he wasn’t going to get better.

Grief-stricken, the Stauntons sat with their son all weekend, telling him stories they hoped he would hear and know how much he was loved. When he died Sunday, April 1, four days after falling ill, they got into bed with him and held him, the trickle of sweat down the back of his neck still warm.

The cause of death the family got from the hospital-an official autopsy report from the medical examiner is not yet available-was streptococcal toxic shock caused by streptococcus pyogenes, or group A strep infection. Group A streptococci are the bacteria most commonly responsible for strep throat, which affects an estimated 7.3 million people in the United States every year – including, the Stauntons say, several students at Rory’s school in the weeks leading up to his hospitalization.

For most of these millions, the symptoms of strep are relatively mild: sore throat, fever, swollen tonsils. In some cases, patients experience impetigo or sinus problems, but even then, a quick round of antibiotics is usually enough to kill the infection.

“Fortunately, strep continues to be susceptible to antibiotics, including good old penicillin. It remains very, very treatable under most circumstances,” says Camille Sabella, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. “A lot of times when people don’t get well from strep, it’s not because we don’t have the drugs to treat it; it’s because the effects of the bacteria are so aggressive.”

With these infections, the bacteria typically invade the body in other ways, opening the door for serious complications such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), bacteremia (blood poisoning), or, as in Rory’s case, toxic shock.

“There are some strains [of group A strep] that can be very aggressive and produce toxins that break down the skin and the soft tissues,” Dr. Sabella explains. “When that happens, the bacteria can break though the very superficial parts of the skin and really get into the deeper layers and, ultimately, the bloodstream, where they can cause a lot of damage.”

These cases, known as invasive strep infections, affect between 10,000 and 12,000 Americans a year, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Active Bacterial Core surveillance. Those most at risk, Dr. Sabella says, are the very young, the elderly, and patients who have immunocompromised states and skin conditions (such as eczema and chicken pox), although invasive strep can also follow seemingly mild lacerations – like the simple scrape Rory got at school.

The Deadly Side of Strep Infections

The bacteria for strep are widespread, so it’s difficult to determine where or with whom the deadly infection originated. Staunton says he believes strep was going around his son’s school. The school could not be reached for comment.

“Group A strep is one of these bacteria that are so common in the environment that it’s hard to really pinpoint where you’re getting it from,” says Richard Malley, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston. “Just being around somebody who has streptococcus in their throat exposes you to getting it as well. There are even examples, in the military, of streptococci being able to survive on inanimate objects, like blankets.”

That type of transmission, however, is exceedingly rare, Dr. Sabella notes. “Group A strep is generally spread from person to person,” he explains. “Picking it up from objects or pets or carpets is not usually possible. The main modes of transmission are through droplet spread, contact with respiratory secretion, or direct contact with [infected] skin.”

Strep that gets into the skin is generally riskier – in part because it can more easily spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, the joints, or the blood – but not all skin cases are severe, and not all throat cases are benign.

“Are there specific factors that make one group A strep more virulent than another? We don’t know exactly,” Dr. Malley explains. “If you look at all of the group A strep, even though those bacteria have the same name, on a genetic level, they’re very, very different. It’s a bit like the human race: We’re all people, but we have enormous differences in our DNA, and those differences result in differences in our height, our skin color, our eye color, etc.”

Among the various strains of group A strep, he continues, certain bacteria may produce more of a specific type of toxin or poison, which might translate into more or less virulence, or a more or less aggressive nature.

“The other side of the coin,” he says, “is the host. You might be very resistant to group A strep, for example, but I might fall apart. And the difference might just be your genes compared to mine, or your past exposure compared to mine. … It’s very hard to say that one person is protected and another person is not. It’s a complicated issue.”

Strep deaths are uncommon. Millions of people are infected every year, but only a small percentage of those cases are invasive, and only a small percentage of those cases – 10 percent to 14 percent, or approximately 1,200 to 1,600 of the CDC’s estimated 12,000 – result in death. Streptococcal toxic shock, which is what is believed to have killed Rory, is even more unusual, especially among children. There are less than 600 cases a year in the country.

Those numbers, of course, mean nothing to Staunton. But these do. “Strep has cost me 25 percent of my family,” he says. “Fifty percent of my children. That’s the reality I’mliving with.

“It is a horrible form of torture that has been inflicted on us, on Rory,” he adds. “One Tuesday, I’m picking out what kind of toppings he wants on his pizza, and the next Tuesday, I’m speaking at his funeral. Someone needs to send a message: There’s a killer on the loose.”

‘Well One Day, Sick the Next’

The Stauntons are not alone. Less than 20 miles from their Queens home, a Rockville Centre, Long Island, family is coping with the same reality. Sean Sweetman, 2, died in February under circumstances remarkably parallel to Rory’s. He, too, was reportedly diagnosed with a stomach virus that turned out to be invasive group A strep. He, too, was taken from his family just days after getting sick.

Similar stories from around the country – an 8-year-old girl in Ohio, a preschooler in Virginia, a toddler in Oregon – are part of the reason why Staunton is speaking out.

“There’s nothing out there for me. Rory isn’t coming back,” he says. “But if our story helps save someone else’s son, maybe some good can come of this. Maybe we’ll be the last people to be tortured by the loss of a child to strep.”

Awareness will help, but experts say some deaths can’t be prevented, in part because there’s often no cardinal sign that indicates strep over another infection.

“Unfortunately, bacteria, when they hurt the host, tend to hurt the host in much the same way as other bacteria: with fever and pain,” Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Malley says. The more distinct red flags occur later, when the illness has already progressed.

With streptococcal toxic shock, for example, the first symptoms may be fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting, all of which could be indicative of other conditions, such as the flu. As the bacteria spread throughout the body, however – usually within 24 to 48 hours of exposure – patients may experience rapid deterioration presenting as low blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, bright red skin, excessive bruising, yellowed eyes, tissue necrosis, and pain or swelling at the site of infection.

“It’s very acute, meaning the person is well one day and sick the next,” Dr. Malley explains. Because of this, invasive strep cases can be difficult – but not impossible – to treat.

“Toxic shock, especially with strep, can be very, very aggressive,” Dr. Sabella warns. “Fortunately, we do have antibiotics that are active against the strep itself. But a lot of times, it’s the toxins from the strep that cause the damage. We usually have to do significant debridement or drainage of the soft tissue; that’s surgical treatment to clean out the tissues and to allow the antibiotics to get where they need to go to treat the bacteria.”

In Rory’s case, surgery wasn’t an option. “It was gone too far,” Staunton recalls. “No matter what they were throwing at it, it killed everything.” He wipes away a tear, that is immediately replaced by another one. “He was my best friend.”

A Family’s Last Goodbye

“He used to steal my clothes, you know,” Staunton says. “Only the good ones. I got this beautiful shirt from my wife for Christmas, and he came down one morning dressed for a debate, and there it was. I said, ‘That’s my shirt!’ He said, ‘Not anymore.’”

Rory was buried in that shirt. “The last thing I had to do was get his shoes cleaned, get my shirt cleaned, and iron his pants to bring to the funeral,” his father says,weeping again. “I must have ironed his pants 40 times that morning.”

The funeral, attended by more than 1,000 people in New York, was also streamed live to friends and family around the world. Shortly after, Rory boarded his final flight: a one-way trip to Ireland, where officials stamped his passport for the last time. There, in the shadow of St. Peter’s Church in Drogheda, 30 miles from Dublin, loved ones lowered him into the ground next to his grandmother, who died when Rory was 3.

“Spiritually, emotionally, we couldn’t bear the thought of him lying alone in a graveyard without anyone around him and where no one knew him,” Staunton says. “So we buried him where we know friends and family visit all the time.”

Staunton is quiet for a moment, thinking. “Does that make sense?” he asks. Nothing seems to anymore.

“You see your child’s name on a headstone…” he begins. His voice, already barely above a whisper, breaks, trails off.

“It’s unnatural.”

Irish Central – The Month’s Mind — A letter to Rory, remembering a laughing boy with us no more

Posted by: Niall O’Dowd; Posted on Friday 13 April 2012

The Irish religious ritual of a “month’s mind”, exactly a month after a departed has passed is a beautiful if sad occasion to remember a beloved.

So this is for my nephew 12-year-old Rory Staunton, now in the arms of the angels after tragically dying from a toxic infection in a New York hospital on April 1st.

Rory, we miss you so much.

Every morning I awake and wonder if the empty feeling will ever subside, if it all really happened that one so vibrant and beautiful should pass so unexpectedly leaving so many broken hearts.

Alas, it has.

The days have been tough for us Rory, the nights even tougher.

What your parents,Orlaith and Ciaran have endured I will never know, except they and your wonderful sister Kathleen have hearts so broken it is hard to see them ever heal.

Yet they are magnificent, trying their very best every day to keep going despite the most horrible blow possible.

The memories still cascade, so special, so sad, so unreal that we won’t see your big red head of hair come bouncing into our lives again, full of the latest breaking news from CNN or the science project you are working on, or the plane you want to fly or the car you want to drive or the dream you want to live or the cause you want us to take up.

I almost called you to say make sure you watched the last flight of the space shuttle to JFK last week when it came in perched on top of a mighty Jumbo 747.

You would have told me everything about how the jumbo was able to carry such a massive load. You were always so comfortable in the sky.

You left an indelible mark young man. President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those hundreds who have written to your parents saying how deeply they feel for them.

Family and friends here in America and Ireland have been wonderful Rory, you have brought out the very best in everyone.

I know a family where sisters reconciled after reading about your death, deciding that they could not sustain the bitter word when life is so fleeting.

I saw an incredibly decent act when the immigration officer at Dublin readily stamped your passport one more time when you traveled home to Ireland with us on your final flight.

A Rory circle of virtue I thought at the time.

That’s a little part of your legacy Rory, and there will be much more to come.

You were a pathfinder. I remember last summer when we spent the weekend in rural Pennsylvania and I got you and everyone else totally lost trying to find the road home.

It was pitch black and I was afraid to admit I was scared, we had wandered so far off the beaten path.

You alone, so mature as always, found the way back to our friend’s house deep in the woods as if you had a GPS in your head.

Now we need you to lead the way again for all of us, to help us cope.

Oh and Rory, a little boy was born this week to your first cousin Danielle in Ireland.

His name is Fionn Rory Muldoon after you.

Someday I will teach him about you and tell him what a difference you made and what a special boy you were.

You will live on in him and others always.

Until we meet again, Rory, and I know we will, I love you and miss you so much.

Your Uncle Niall

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Donegal Democrat: Bundoran Mayor’s sympathies on tragic NYC death

Published: Friday  April 13, 2012
Donegal Democrat
Bundoran Mayor’s sympathies on tragic NYC death

By Sue Doherty

The Mayor of Bundoran, Cllr. Michael McMahon has attended the funeral of Rory Staunton, the 12-year-old who died suddenly in New York following a brief illness. Rory is the son of Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform founder Ciaran Staunton and his wife Orlaith, of the Irish Voice newspaper. His uncles include Niall O’Dowd, a prominent Irish American journalist, and Fine Gael Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd.

More than 1,200 mourners paid their respects at St Mary’s Church in Queens. Huge numbers also attended the wake at his aunt Dervla’s home in Meath and the Requiem Mass in St Peter’s Church, Drogheda on Easter Monday. Among them were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fein leader Gerry Adams, as well as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness.

Cllr. McMahon, who was also present, said afterwards: “On behalf of the people of Bundoran and, indeed of Donegal, I extend heartfelt sympathies to Niall, Orlaith, their daughter Kathleen and all the extended family on the tragic loss of Ryan.

“I have known the family for many years. Both Ciaran and Orlaith, as well as Rory’s uncle Niall, would be very well known to thousands of Donegal emigrants for their trojan work to help the undocumented Irish in America. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this terrible time.”

“We will all miss him,” junior minister Fergus O’Dowd said this week. “He was wonderful and too young to die.” Writing in his column on Irish, Niall O’Dowd shared his anguish at the loss of his beloved nephew. “On Sunday night [April 1] in a New York hospital my beautiful 12-year-old nephew Rory Staunton passed from this earth.

“Rory wasn’t just my nephew, he was the son I never had, the precious possession of my sister Orlaith and her husband Ciaran Staunton along with their daughter Kathleen.’

“‘I revelled in this big laughing Irishman, with the ‘Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy’ obsession, the absurd sense of humour and the serious political side of him who studied American politics with the intensity of a professional. “JFK was his hero he told me, because of his idealism. Rory too wanted to make a difference, to help the less well off. For one so young he already had a highly developed social conscience.

“He had already been to the White House and had met President Obama and Michelle on St Patrick’s Day in 2011. Not surprisingly, given his parents and their keen interest in all things political, Rory was fast becoming a political expert.

“Then on Sunday we lost him. Four days earlier he had received an elbow scrape after falling while playing basketball, which had somehow allowed a toxic bacteria into his system. Two days later he was hospitalized, fighting for his life, a battle he ultimately lost.

“There is an air of unreality even as I write this. My beautiful red-headed, five-foot nine-inch tall nephew has departed, leaving an utterly broken family and circle of friends that stretches from New York to Ireland to many other points behind.

“It was the worst weekend of my life as I watched the beloved boy battle vainly against the host of toxins that were attacking him.

“Despite the best efforts of outstanding doctors and nurses in the Intensive Care Unit , the darling boy did not survive.

“He is gone now into the wild blue yonder where he used to travel as a pilot in the making.

“Soar high Rory, and keep watch on us down below. We love you and miss you so much. Some day with a blue sky above and a fair wind behind, and our hearts full, our dreams will come true and we will meet our beautiful boy again.

“Until then, slan go foill a chuisle mo chroi.”

Sunnyside Post – Ciaran & Orlaith Staunton’s son Celebrated

Posted by: Pat Dorfman; Posted on Wednesday April 11 2012

More than 1,000 mourners crowded into Woodside’s St. Mary’s Winfield Church Thursday morning, with hundreds more outside, to show respect to the Staunton–O’Dowd family, who suffered the loss of young Rory Staunton. Rory fell ill last week after a light scrape while playing basketball. Four days later, a freakish infection took over his body and the 12-year passed away, leaving his family, friends, and the rest of the community in shock.

The two-hour service included scores of tributes. Rory’s 7th grade teacher from Garden School, where Rory was in 7th grade, broke down during his remarks. He praised Rory’s “big heart,” and debating skills, and said that Rory was “the most precocious 12-year old” he had ever taught. He mentioned Rory’s “insatiable passion for life,” and his willingness to stand alone to defend those picked on or in trouble.

A violinist, guitarist and soprano performed throughout. The service included moving mainstream songs, such as “You Raise Me Up,” which accompanied the two giant video screens on each side of the altar, displaying scenes of Rory’s life. Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” captured the sentiment of many speakers who spoke of hoping to see Rory again someday. The service was broadcast in its entirety to family and friends in England, Ireland and Australia.

Many came to the service from Ireland to pay their respects. Additionally, there were several elected officials in attendance, including: Congressman Joseph Crowley; Assemblywomen Cathy Nolan and Marge Markey, Council speaker Christine Quinn; and Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Danny Dromm.

A group of Sunnyside mothers were asked to eulogize Rory, which they did, often using the tributes of his friends, their own children. One mother noted that she saw Rory’s kindness when he bought her and her child red and green candies at the store with his own money, showing support for his favorite Irish football team, Kerry, but none for himself. Kerry was the home county of his mother Orlaith O’Dowd’s family, with his father, Ciaran, usually rooting for Mayo. Another Sunnyside mother said that Rory was the “sweetest and noble person I have ever met, and had “no malice.”

Many speakers mentioned Rory’s protectiveness and friendship with his younger sister Kathleen and their maternal cousin, Alana; his meeting with President Obama and the first lady; his wish to attend Georgetown University and go into politics; and his desire to become a professional pilot. Rory was said to have idolized John F. Kennedy and Rosa Parks.

Niall O’Dowd, Rory’s uncle and the publisher of the Irish Voice, was visibly shaken by the loss of his nephew, the “son I never had.” He said he had just received a call from the Irish Prime Minister about Rory and that the PM would be attending the upcoming service in Ireland this Sunday. O’Dowd spoke eloquently, concluding, “Some day with a blue sky above and a fair wind behind, and our hearts full, our dreams will come true and we will meet our beautiful boy again.”

Surprising all was the lengthy tribute paid by Rory’s father, Ciaran Staunton, owner of Molly Bloom’s pub in Sunnyside and co-founder of The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (a group seeking green cards for undocumented Irish). Although emotional at times, Staunton praised his son without hyperbole and at the end of his remarks got a close to one-minute standing ovation.

Staunton mentioned Noah Zimmerman, Rory’s close friend, and the inseparable group of 40-to-50 children, a “mini ratpack,” in Sunnyside Gardens. Staunton spoke of his son’s strong interest in political and his knowledge of world events.

He told one story, to rousing laughter, of the evening when the family television was tuned to “Housewives of New York City,” and Rory burst downstairs to break the news to them that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had passed away.

Staunton spoke about the flying lessons Rory insisted on and his wish to become a pilot. After being refused lessons due to his age, Rory went on the internet found a school on Long Island who would allow him to study and fly with his instructor on his twelfth birthday, and they finally agreed. He landed the plane himself.

Rory’s father spoke of the “scheming and plotting” of Rory and Kathleen and how their parental wishes “meant nothing.” He said after attending a bar mitzvah, Rory was very disappointed that he was not going to have one. Family friend Deidre Feerick, outside helping the NYPD “Clergy Unit” handle the traffic jam caused by the number of attendees, said she was impressed with Rory. “He didn’t just play in Sunnyside Gardens Park. A year ago or so, he drew up a plan to recycle rain water for the park, with proper documents and engineering thought out.” Everyone who attended, and the event was open to all, were invited to a sit-down lunch in St. Mary’s Gym next door. Over 800 stayed for sandwiches, fruit salad, cookies, salad, coffee, and soda.

Father Tom, the priest who gave the eulogy, mentioned, “People of all faiths and with no faith are here to show they care,” and praised the family’s remarkable “complete lack of dispute” in the last days.

An immense cluster of white orange and green balloons referencing Ireland were released as the coffin was returned to the hearse. Lynch Funeral Home in Sunnyside is handling the return of Rory Staunton to Ireland, where he will be buried, in the “arms of his grandmother.”

The community knows that the grief will never fully pass away for the close-knit family and friends. But most of the community seem blindsided by the sudden passing of someone part of the daily fabric of their lives, a kind, smart, cheerful boy. They came to pay respects but found solace for themselves. “It brought me to tears,” said Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce staffer Luke Adams, “It was a beautiful service.”

Meath Chronicle Obituary: Rory Staunton

Published: Wednesday April 11 2012
Meath Chronicle
Rory Staunton Obituary

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, joined other public representative and members of the Staunton and O’Dowd families for the funeral in Rathfeigh Church on Monday morning of 12-year-old Rory Staunton, who died in New York following a sudden illness on Sunday 1st April. Son of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, the mourners included Rory’s uncles, Minister of State and Louth TD, Fergus O’Dowd, and Neil O’Dowd of the New York-based Irish Voice newspaper, and his aunt, Derval Hogan of Skryne, in whose home his remains reposed on return from America. Four days before his death, the young boy had received an elbow graze in a fall while playing basketball. A toxic bacteria got into his system, and two days later he was hospitalised and fighting for his life. He was brought home to Ireland to be buried in the family burial plot in Drogheda.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr Barney Mulkerins of the Society of St Columban, Dalgan Park, assisted by Fr Joe Gleeson, Rathfeigh, Fr Donal Hogan, regional director, Columban Fathers and Fr Dan Cunniffe, also of the Columban Fathers of Dalgan Park, where Derval Hogan works.

Fr Mulkerins recalled a young man with wisdom, intelligence and a social consciousness.

He had already met President and Michelle Obama at the White House in 2011, and set up a campaign to ban the word ‘retard’ being used at his school. ‘Spread the word to end the word’ was his message. Rory Staunton was very mature for his age, often engaging in adult conversations. John F Kennedy was his hero, because of Kennedy’s idealism.

Rory spearheaded collections for the New York-based Smile Train charity, which provides children with cleft lip and palate surgery. He mixed easily with all traditions and religions in Queens.

Gifts in the Offertory Procession included the flags of the country of Rory’s birth and his heritage, the US and Ireland, and sands from the beach in Mayo where he played with his cousins. His passport was stamped when he came into Shannon Airport last week, as he would have wanted, his father Ciaran told the congregation. He said Rory was ‘never a bystander’. He had already achieved his ambition of flying a plane, even at his age. He had searched the internet until he found a firm that gave lessons to those under 16, and had flown a two-seater plane and landed it.

“We now need a pilot more than ever, and you are our pilot, Rory,” he said, adding that his son’s favourite poem was ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, and that Rory was now on that road less travelled for one of his age. Mayo native Mr Staunton, who runs Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub in New York, is founder of Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform. His wife, Orlaith works with the Irish Voice. The couple have a daughter, Kathleen, and Rory is also survived by his grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends.

A funeral service took place in St Mary’s, Queens, New York, before the repatriation of the remains to Ireland. The funeral on Easter Monday took place from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rathfeigh, to St Peter’s Cemetery, Drogheda.


Irish Central: Rory Staunton would have loved Tom Gibney’s underdog’s win at Fairyhouse race course

Published:  Wednesday April 11 2012
Rory Staunton would have loved Tom Gibney’s underdog’s win at Fairyhouse race course

By Cathal Dervan

It rained for most of the day in County Meath on Monday, quite an appropriate scenario as a small parish church not far from Fairyhouse race course witnessed a tearful family’s farewell as Rory Staunton departed for brighter heavens.

You may or may not know about young Rory. You may or may not have heard of his untimely death at such a young age last week.

If you’re a regular on IrishCentral you will know of the pain and the torture his parents and his sister have shared with his uncles and aunts, cousins and friends these past few days since his tragic death in New York on April 1.

If you didn’t know Rory – and I didn’t – let me share some of the passion and the fervor of his 12 brief years on this earth as relayed by his dad Ciaran from the altar of Rathfeigh church.

From listening to the words of a heartbroken father I know Rory now and I know well, at least I would like to think so.

Rory, his dad told us, was a passionate sports fan who cared as much about the Mayo county football team as he did about the Notre Dame footballers so beloved of his uncle Niall O’Dowd of this parish.

I now know Rory. I know him as a young man who held the former Mayo player Ciaran McDonald in such high esteem that he got his dad to park outside the McDonald family homestead just to see what sort of life the blond bombshell lived away from the football field.

Clearly, Rory Staunton was a young man who could offer an insightful view of the fortunes of Kerry or Louth, the other counties in his sporting life back home in Ireland.

He was, as his father exemplified in such moving words on Monday morning, a young man who loved his sport exactly as he loved his life. All denominations, all creeds, all beliefs were to be welcomed and to be loved.

Ireland’s government leader Enda Kenny was at Rathfeigh church on Monday morning. Hours later he was at Fairyhouse, not seven miles away, on official duty for one of the great events of any Irish sporting year.

The Irish Grand National is an institution. It has been held over the Easter weekend and at Fairyhouse for so many years now. British troops were even at the venue on Easter Sunday in 1916 when Padraig Pearse and his Rebels took advantage and staged an uprising at Dublin’s General Post Office.

I know Rory Staunton well enough now to know that he would have approved of Pearse’s ideology and his cunning plan to make hay for Irish freedom while British troops were betting on horses of a different color in the appropriately named Royal County.

I would also like to think that Rory Staunton would have approved of the sporting tale that unfolded over the same Fairyhouse turf in Meath on Monday afternoon as Kenny looked on.

The 2012 Irish Grand National was supposed to be won by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary or billionaire tycoon JP McManus, the two biggest owners in the racing game here and two men with five entrants each in the big race.

The bookies and the pundits all told us as much. They spoke of Allee Garde and Groody Hill and Four Commanders and Alfie Sherrin and Arabella Boy as the favorites in the 30 horse field.

Hardly anyone spoke of a horse trained a few more miles down the road in the historic town of Kells, home of the book of the same name as a friend of mine likes to tell American tourists now that they are back among us again.

Tom Gibney is a small time trainer, not just in racing terms but in any terms. He only has five horses on his watch at his Kells stable, and he has never entered a horse in the Irish Grand National before.

But guess what? Lion na Bearnai proved that fairytales do come true on Monday afternoon as the 33-1 10-year-old came storming home to secure a stunning win for Gibney, jockey Andrew Thornton and the owners in the Lock syndicate from Meath who paid just $12,000 for the horse five years ago.

Theirs was a story to behold on a very sad day down round our way. Theirs was a story to celebrate, a victory for the little guy against all the odds.

I didn’t know Rory Staunton as I’ve already explained. But I’ve a feeling he’d have enjoyed Lion na Bearnai’s victory in the Irish Grand National on the day his ancestral homeland said goodbye. I hope he did.

To Rory’s dad Ciaran, mum Orlaith and sister Kathleen, my deepest sympathies.

Read more:

Rory Staunton, a beautiful boy, leaves this earth

Irish Central – Rory Staunton, a beautiful boy, leaves this earth.
The hardest column I will ever have to write

Posted on Sunday, April 08, 2012

This is the toughest column I will ever write and the one I least expected to.

On Sunday night in a New York hospital my beautiful 12-year-old nephew Rory Staunton passed from this earth.

Rory wasn’t just my nephew, he was the son I never had, the precious possession of my sister Orlaith and her husband Ciaran Staunton along with their daughter Kathleen.

Orlaith was the one that followed me to America. I introduced her and Ciaran on an Irish weekend in the Catskills back in the 1990s. Soon they were pledged to each other and they have had a wonderful marriage and family.

From earliest times, Rory was a laughing little boy, an impish toddler always ready for fun, especially when his sister Kathleen and her sidekick, my daughter Alana, were involved.

In later years, he was also strangely mature for his age, taking part in adult conversations while other kids played childhood games.

I tried to steal Rory away often; a Notre Dame game, a weekend at our house, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I revelled in this big laughing Irishman, with the “Simpsons” and “Family Guy” obsession, the absurd sense of humor and the serious political side of him who studied American politics with the intensity of a professional.

JFK was his hero he told me, because of his idealism. Rory too wanted to make a difference, to help the less well off. For one so young he already had a highly developed social conscience.

He had already been to the White House and had met President Obama and Michelle on St.Patrick’s Day in 2011. Not surprisingly, given his parents and their keen interest in all things political, Rory was fast becoming a political expert.

Rory charmed the pants off whoever met him. The girls were already showing interest, but Rory was a busy guy. He had taken flying lessons at 11, leaving his parents with their hearts in their mouths as he flew fearlessly into the wild blue yonder with his instructor.

Ireland was his spiritual home. On vacations back in his Dad’s Mayo or his Mom’s Kerry and Louth he fell in with the locals and a gaggle of cousins, discussed Mayo’s continued Gaelic Football failures with the best of them and came back to New York as attuned to Ireland and its rhythms as any local.

He was about to spread his wings, and Georgetown University and its politics degree were on his radar. Rory was opening up, emerging from a chrysalis, ready for the beckoning world, to take flight.

Then on Sunday we lost him. Four days earlier he had received an elbow scrape after falling while playing basketball, which had somehow allowed a toxic bacteria into his system. Two days later he was hospitalized, fighting for his life, a battle he ultimately lost.

There is an air of unreality even as I write this. My beautiful red-headed, five-foot nine-inch tall nephew has departed, leaving an utterly broken family and circle of friends that stretches from New York to Ireland to many other points behind.

It was the worst weekend of my life as I watched the beloved boy battle vainly against the host of toxins that were attacking him.

Despite the best efforts of outstanding doctors and nurses in the Intensive Care Unit , the darling boy did not survive.

He is gone now into the wild blue yonder where he used to travel as a pilot in the making.

Soar high Rory, and keep watch on us down below. We love you and miss you so much. Some day with a blue sky above and a fair wind behind, and our hearts full, our dreams will come true and we will meet our beautiful boy again.

Until then, slan go foill a chuisle mo chroi.

An Irish wake for Rory Staunton back home in Meath — The families and friends gather for the timeless Irish ritual

Posted by: IrishCentral; Posted on Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Irish wake for my nephew Rory Staunton began in the parlor of his Aunt Derval’s house among the rolling hills and farmland of County Meath.

Rory, aged 12, died at New York University Hospital a week ago from a toxic infection suffered after an elbow cut received at a basketball game.

The parlor is the room in the Irish house that is kept spotless, has all the best furniture and finery but nobody ever visits it except for occasions of great joy or in this case grief.

Derval, a nurse, had waked my mother and her own husband Paddy Hogan, a farmer there over the past ten years. She had been a tower of strength at the side of my sister Orlaith and her husband Ciaran when their son Rory passed away in New York.

Now it was, unbelievably, 12-year old Rory’s body with the Irish and American flag and the flag of his beloved Mayo that lay in that same room in that same house in a beautiful corner of County Meath in this blessed time of spring when new life abounds.

The Staunton and O’Dowd families had flocked from all over Ireland and America and some locals had dropped in too.

The wake followed a very defined ritual, similar in Irish rural life all for generations. It is a blessed one, especially for the parents of Rory who can once again absorb the love and support.

The arrival of the little boy’s coffin from the Aer Lingus flight from New York was accompanied with dread, floods of tears, and a sadness so profound that the gloom seemed impermeable.

As the priest said the brief prayers, the sounds of tears and desperate sadness filled the room.

Then, after the priest departed and the individual visitations to the coffin were completed the stories began and Rory’s life began to reassert itself.

From the Staunton side we heard about the little boy’s annual travels to Mayo every year and the life and the times he witnessed there.

Rory always spoke of his best friend forever, Donal, the son of Ciaran’s brother, and the two young boys are roughly the same age. I’d never met Donal but if there is an Irish version of Rory it is him, inquisitive, warm, friendly and now clearly heartbroken.

Then the memories of Rory on this very farm were brought on, the kid Yank home from America who seemed to move so naturally through the rhythms of Irish rural life. Once he was found on top of bales of hay stacked so high no one could quite figure out how he climbed up there.

His fascination with Paddy Hogan’s pet sheep who followed Paddy around like an obedient dog, after being house-raised was also recalled.

It was time for the little girls to pay their own tribute. His sister Kathleen and my daughter Alana prepared their last little play and concert for Rory, which they performed behind closed doors for their beloved Ro Ro.

I’m glad I didn’t witness it as it would have been too much.

The wake went on late into the life. Farming life was one constant topic, as two rural families united in grief for a young boy but also in celebration of an extraordinary life. In the midst was Danielle, Derval’s daughter, nine months pregnant and ready to start the cycle of life anew in the never-ending battle.

The funeral mass and burial now lies ahead before Rory can rest forever in his beloved Ireland. Our hearts are broken but the extraordinary love for Rory in Ireland and America is solace indeed.

Queens Gazette – Rory Staunton, Son Of Molly Bloom’s Owner, Was Only 12

Posted by: Queens Gazette; Posted on Sunday, April 08, 2012

Rory Staunton, son of Sunnyside pub Molly Bloom’s restaurant owner Ciaran Staunton, died tragically at the age of 12. Young Rory was taken ill and died last week at the hospital following complications from a brief illness.

Services were held at St. Mary’s Winfield Church in Woodside on April 5 where more than 1,500 people attended including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Rory was then flown to his final resting place in Ireland. The family asks that no flowers be sent but instead donations should be made to Heifer International at