AN ambulance driver revealed how he had to meet his grandson for the first time through a car window as a means to protect the children he transports.
Douglas Kavanagh from Cobh, known as Dougie to friends, is one of many frontline workers making sacrifices throughout the current Covid-19 pandemic.
As the driver of a BUMBLEance — an ambulance designed especially for children — Douglas has taken every precaution he can to keep the kids he works with safe.
While his wife’s introduction to their grandson was through a porch door, Douglas wasn’t taking any chances. He admits that it was only recently that he got to see their newest addition Elijah, minus the glass window.
He urged people to continue the fight against coronavirus with a reminder that there are many children out there who are still vulnerable to the condition.
Speaking about his own sacrifices on the frontline he said: “I saw my grandson for the first time through a car window outside a supermarket. I had been going there to fill up with diesel and met them there by chance. This meant I got to go and see him through the car window.
“When I came close to the window my granddaughter said to me ‘You can’t come in Grandad!’ Even she was aware of the risks.”
He spoke of how social distancing is a matter of life and death for many of the children he works with.
“I’m more of a threat to the kids I’m transporting, given that most of the children we transport don’t have immune systems,” he explained. “People who are saying that they are strong and won’t be affected by Covid-19 are right. For many this will just be like a bad flu but the person they pass it on to could be one of our children. An infection of this magnitude could kill them.
“Anyone whose lives have been affected by this will have a different outlook on the pandemic. This is difficult for the siblings of seriously ill children too as much of the time they are all cocooning together. However, parents still have to go out and buy food so there is always a risk that the condition can spread to a very ill child.”
Douglas described a typical evening after work during the pandemic.
“The shower is located very close to the backdoor so the first thing I do when I go in is throw the clothes I’ve been wearing into the washing machine,” he said. “Then I jump straight into the shower. You don’t tell your family about the things you encounter because they don’t need to know.
“This was the same for frontline staff even before the pandemic. I worked with the National Ambulance Service for 13 years and served in the navy for 26 years before that. When I was working in the National Ambulance Service I witnessed things that were very traumatic. On one occasion I saw a six-day-old baby experiencing a cardiac arrest. However, I didn’t tell my family because it would have been too painful for them to hear.
“With the BUMBLEance, families have already been through the hardship and they want to make the journey as jolly as possible.”
Douglas praised the unbreakable spirits of the BUMBLEance’s young patients, mentioning one remarkable boy suffering from cancer.
“One kid started slagging me when he got in so I began slagging him back. He then looked at me and said “you can’t slag me, I’m going to die. I felt really guilty and thought “what I have I done?” At that moment he gave me a smile and said “I have you now!” The children that we deal with are incredible.”
Douglas made a heartfelt plea to those in a position to donate to help the BUMBLEance.
“Before, there used to be big fundraisers and parties to raise money for BUMBLEance but with Covid-19 but that can’t happen right now. We need as many donations as possible to be able to keep the BUMBLEance going.”
The children’s ambulance service provides safe transportation for young patients to homes, hospitals, hospices, treatment centres, and respite centres across Ireland.
It also offers an Angel Trip service, for terminally ill children making their final journey home. The charity was started by Tony and his wife Mary Heffernan, whose children Saoirse and Liam both succumbed to Batten disease in 2011 and 2014 respectively when they just were five years old.
To donate or find further information on the BUMBLEance charity visit www.bumbleance.com.