Cork Tesco opens an hour early to let vulnerable customer shop alone

12-year-old Izzy O’Connell, who is deemed high-risk, missed shopping at her local Tesco so they opened an hour early so she could shop alone.

A Tesco store in Youghal, County Cork has gone above and beyond to help one of its most vulnerable customers.

12-year-old Izzy O’Connell undertook a serious operation six years ago to have part of a tumour removed from her brain. The other part of the tumour remains, and Izzy is thus deemed high-risk meaning she is unable to visit the busy supermarket.

However, the Cork Tesco opened an hour early to let this vulnerable customer shop alone.

Every day is a challenge – the side effects of a tumour

12-year-old Izzy is recovering from a serious operation on a brain tumour.
Credit: / @mohamed_hassan

Izzy’s mother Emma O’Connell spoke to Patricia Messinger on C103’s Cork Today Show about the difficulties her daughter faces every day:

“She has been left with huge side effects from the treatment, because the tumour was so aggressive we had to throw everything and the kitchen sink to get it gone and unfortunately, you pay a price for that.

“It’s great that she’s tumour free, but her health got hurt along the way. She’s not in school, she had surgery in 2019, and she didn’t really recover quickly from that because she missed most of 6th– class, then COVID restrictions also delayed her return to school.”

During the pandemic, Izzy has missed visiting her local Cork Tesco store as it is somewhere that held great memories for her.

An act of kindness – great customer service

Cork Tesco opened an hour early to let vulnerable customer to shop alone.
Credit: / P L Chadwick

When one of the store’s managers, Derek, heard how much Izzy missed visiting her local Tesco, he decided to open the store an hour early on Sunday morning so Izzy could roam around safely before the other shoppers arrived.

On Sunday, a delighted Izzy finally got to spend the money she had saved over the last few months without risking her health.

Speaking of the importance of the supermarket to their family, Mrs O’Connell said, “I used to work in Tesco years ago and had to give the job up to mind Izzy full time.

“Tesco would have been a huge part of her life, even after the diagnosis, they’ve always been very good to her, and have offered great support. She hasn’t been in there since before the surgery last year – then, of course, COVID hit so there’s no hope.

“But I was in there one morning and noticed they had the special hours for the vulnerable and elderly people that would be at risk. I met the store manager Derek and asked ‘what are the chances of coming in here when there’s no one here?’

“Even in those vulnerable hours, I’d still be afraid for Izzy, but he said ‘why didn’t you ask me this sooner? I’d have opened the store for her 20 times over’.”

Stocking up on the essentials – a delighted Izzy filled her trolley on Sunday morning

Cork Tesco opened an hour early to let vulnerable customer to shop alone.

Dashing around the empty store’s aisles in what Mrs O’Connell described as ‘a trolley dash’, Izzy stocked up on all the Christmas essentials including Pringles, sweets, Christmas tree decorations – and some watermelon for balance.

The simple act of kindness of this Cork Tesco opening an hour early to let one of their most vulnerable customers shop in safety had a huge impact on Izzy and Emma.

Thanking the staff at Youghal’s Tesco, Mrs O’Connell says the store’s kindness will have a massive positive impact on her daughter’s mental health.

“I haven’t been able to go shopping with her either, and before all of this happened, we used shopping as a bonding and physio session.

She has very minimal movement in her left arm, so when she was shopping, she’d always try to grab onto the trolley and push it around.

This might only last for five minutes, but it’s five minutes of therapy that you wouldn’t get in another setting”.

“Derek didn’t have to do this, and when he said yes, I was blown away. Times are so different now that these things usually don’t happen – things that are nice – but he went out of his way, and that’s huge for us.”

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