Pádraic McCaffrey’s Story

Information, help & support
for those who need it.

My name is Pádraic McCaffrey, I
come from Galway. I was born with
Neurofibromatosis, NF1. I suffer from
an Optic Glioma tumor on the left side
of my face. When I was born both my
eyes were fully open and as I was
growing up, my eyelid drooped down
and closed my eye. This caused
problems and at times led to a lot of
people staring at my appearance. I was
referred to a specialist to see what
could be done regarding the problem
with the left side of my face. The
specialist Mr. Prenderville decided that
he wouldn’t start operating on the
tumour until I was around 11 years
old. In the summer of when I finished
5 th class I had my first operation and
for the next number of years I was in
and out of hospital twice a year for
surgery to try and reduce the size of
the tumour. Apart from that I was in
very good health and was involved in a
lot of sport playing soccer and hurling.
In total I have had 35 operations
including having my eye taken out as
it was totally useless.
In school and growing up a lot of times when I would be out a lot of people would stare and
point out that I had a facial disfigurement instead of asking me what happened me. I would
only be too happy to tell them the story behind what was wrong.
During my time in school, I had great support from a lot of my school friends who would
always look out for each other. In 1989 a neighbour of mine nominated me for a Children’s
Achievement award with McDonald’s fast-food restaurant and I was awarded one. When I was
finishing school, I wanted to go on to do nursing but was told my face wouldn’t fit so I went on
to be a chef.
Sometimes young kids would come up to me and ask questions regarding my face and parents
of these kids would come up apologising for their behaviour and I end up telling them that they
are curious and want to know. I tell them that it doesn’t bother me and I am more than willing
to explain to them and they go away happy.
Sometimes when I would be out working some people think that because I am missing an eye,
they think I can’t do the job. They judge you for the way you look rather than your ability to do
the job. Even today I find sometimes when I would be going for job interviews, the people who
are doing the interview often look surprised when I walk into the room.
I appeared on a documentary for RTÉ a few years called “skin deep” dealing with people who
had facial disfigurements, the other 4 people had accidents happen to them during their lives. I
was the only one who had it from birth. It was a program to give confidence to people who
may have a problem to show that we have got on with our lives, it was part of the True Lives
series. For about 20 years I was a Branchardier in Lourdes, a helper to people with disabilities.
I would also be willing to offer support and talk to anybody who is affected by NF.