Cork man tells us why he helps drive people with cancer to their hospital appointments... and how you can volunteer too

The Irish Cancer Society are seeking volunteer drivers to bring patients to hospital. CHRIS DUNNE spoke to one Cork man who has been volunteering with the service since 2012.
Cork man tells us why he helps drive people with cancer to their hospital appointments... and how you can volunteer too
Pat O’Regan, from Ballintemple, who volunteers as a driver with the Irish Cancer Society.

THERE was always a bit of drive in Pat O’Regan and when the Ballintemple man retired from the Bank of Ireland, he decided to volunteer with the Irish Cancer Society.

“I wasn’t ready to do nothing!” says Pat, who has been a volunteer driver with the Irish Cancer Society since 2012.

“I wanted to give something back in a practical way and volunteering for the driver service a couple of days a month is a great way to do just that.

“It is an invaluable service for people who might not have someone to take them to appointments. It is a rewarding thing to do and I look forward to each and every drive.”

Pat is an enthusiastic volunteer for the Irish Cancer Society.

“I volunteer at Marymount Hospice too,” he says.

“Another volunteer at Marymount told me about the volunteer driver service. I signed up then.

“Last month, I had a record 10 drives. It varies from month to month. Typically, I do five drives a month. It is up to yourself to do as many or as few as you like.

“An email goes out to the volunteer drivers a few days ahead of appointments and we respond depending on our availability. We’re usually asked to do about two drives a month.”

Does he go far?

“I have been to Kerry, to Dungarvan, to the Limerick border, and to Cashel to drive patients to hospital. Journeys can be long or short.”

The Irish Cancer Society has put an urgent call out for volunteers in Cork, specifically in east Cork, for its Volunteer Driver Service, in order to cope with the demand on the free transport service.

The Society has seen a nationwide increase of almost one third in the first few months of this year, with an increase of 30% in patient bookings across Cork.

Pat’s Volkswagen Passat proves invaluable to people who may not drive themselves or who find it difficult to get somebody to drive them to hospital appointments regularly. And it’s comfy too!

“Yes. My car is pretty comfortable for my passengers and it serves a good purpose,” says Pat.

“Sometimes family members aren’t always available or can’t take time off work to drive a patient to hospital appointments.

“And instead of having to ask the neighbour again or the cousin; I am usually available to do the run,” says Pat.

There can be other considerations too.

“Often, the financial strain on people going through a cancer journey isn’t always recognised,” says Pat.

“And there can be other emotional difficulties too down the road.

“Maybe before in the household, there were two incomes coming in. Then when one family member falls ill; suddenly there is only one breadwinner, adding more strain on an already stressful situation. That one bread-winner can’t always afford to take more time off work. So the volunteer driver service is a free service that can easily be availed of.”

Cancer is an illness that has affected every home in the country at some time..

“Yes,” Pat agrees. “My sister was successfully treated for her cancer. Everybody knows somebody who has had a cancer diagnosis.”

He gets to know his passengers.

“I get to know if the person wants to talk or not,” says Pat.

“They can be quieter on the way home, depending on the treatment. It varies. Often, they may be tired or lack energy after treatment. It is probably a good idea not to get too emotionally attached either as you never know what the news could be.”

Pat gets great satisfaction with his attachment to the Irish Cancer Society.

“I get a great sense of satisfaction being a volunteer driver,” he says.

“I meet a variety of new people and interesting people. I am always amazed by their resilience and positivity. They are from all walks of life and from all backgrounds.”

Pat says driving people with cancer to their hospital appointments is a worthwhile thing to do.

“I look forward to my drives. It is a good thing to do,” says Pat.

A CALL OUT FOR VOLUNTEERS

Gail Flinter, Patient Travel and Financial Support Manager with the Irish Cancer Society, says: “We have seen a huge increase in patient referrals across the country, as well as in the Cork area.

“To cope with this demand, it is essential that we recruit more volunteers to transport patients to their chemotherapy appointments.

“We have a fantastic network of volunteer drivers around the country who receive ongoing training and support.

“I would appeal to anyone in the east Cork area who has a couple of days free a month to get in touch.

“You will become part of a remarkable team of volunteers, without whom this valuable service simply could not function.”

The Volunteer Driver Service is available to cancer patients in Cork who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment in any of the public hospitals in Cork. 21 hospitals in Ireland are currently participating in the programme.

If you would like to become a volunteer or if you are a patient, who would like more information, please contact Gail or Laura on the Volunteer Driver Service team on 01-2310566, (Gail), or 01-2310566, (Laura). Email:transport@irishcancer.ie or visit www.cancer.ie

The Volunteer Driver Service is completely free to the patient and drivers are paid a contribution towards their fuel, all road toll costs and some refreshments during the day.

Volunteer Drivers are usually booked for one or two drives per month so the time commitment required is not too great; however, these are full days.

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