AN adorable Cork toddler who showed incredible bravery after an illness left him on a ventilator is the inspiration behind a new fundraising drive for a specially equipped children’s ambulance.
Eighteen-month-old Theo Arons-Morrissey spent around 10 days fighting to defy the odds back in February of 2020.
The Douglas boy was born with atypical Moebius Syndrome which affects the muscles controlling facial expression and eye movement. This in turn makes feeding, swallowing, and crawling extremely difficult.
While in hospital, his father Anthony Morrissey, a business development manager for Munster Rugby, spotted the famous national children’s ambulance known as the Bumbleance.
Little did he know it was to be the start of a beautiful friendship and the catalyst for the ‘Munster Machine’ — a new ambulance hitting the road later this year.
The vehicle will be the 18th Bumbleance of its kind to join the fleet.
It is hoped that more than €250,000 can be raised through their partnership with Munster Rugby to make the dream a reality.
Anthony explained how the partnership began. “I saw they were collecting and threw some money into the pot,” he said.
When the Bumbleance team heard Theo’s story they suggested that Anthony avail of the service.
After he was able to bring Theo home, there were still regular appointments in Crumlin.
Anthony recalled how the Bumbleance helped Theo during his time of need.
“It took away so much of the worry,” Anthony said.
“There is so much going through your head when you take a child to hospital.
“You are concerned about things like whether the car park will be full and stopping for petrol.
“In reality, all you should be doing on the drive up is thinking about what you’re going to ask the doctor and looking after your child.
“Having the Bumbleance means you can concentrate on what really matters. It’s important that, at times like this, you have that time and space to breathe.”
He described how the charity made them feel like part of their family.
“What makes Bumbleance special is the small little touches, like knowing Theo’s name when we ring to book a Bumbleance, the drivers all making us feel so special from the second they arrive, the feeling of being part of something and the fact they have made us feel part of their family. Theo is a king bee!”
Anthony described their journey with the Bumbleance.
“Theo was watching a movie he had never seen before and chatting to the driver. Even at 18 months he always manages to woo people. At the end, I asked how much we owed and they said ‘nothing’.
“I had assumed that we would have to pay so was taken aback to learn it was completely free.
“When Theo was in the hospital he was pointing at things and waving at the other babies. Everyone in the Bumbleance had put him in good form which meant he wasn’t at all nervous when going in. The lack of stress around the experience really helped. “
He hopes that as many families as possible can benefit from the service.
“Everyone in Munster Rugby is delighted to be connected with this. I’m deeply honoured to know that Bumbleance is associated with the organisation.
“Personally, I’d really like it to be a success. As time goes by, more children are going to be using the service. Seeing the benefits this has given my family makes me wonder how many other families out there could be helped by the Bumbleance too.”
Commenting on the partnership, Munster Rugby Corporate Social Responsibility Project Manager, Claire Cooke added: “We are delighted to Support Bumbleance on this exciting campaign, helping provide an essential service to those in need within our community. Tony and his team oversee an amazing charity that does incredible work around the province and beyond.
“We all look forward to seeing the Munster Machine on the road for the next five years and Munster Rugby is very proud of the part it will play in providing a unique experience and support to children in need.”
Bumbleance is the world’s first fully interactive children’s national ambulance service. It provides a service for critically and seriously ill children, who require transportation between their home and children’s hospitals, hospices, national treatment centres and respite care.
The organisation comes under the umbrella of The Saoirse Foundation which was founded by the Heffernans in 2010 after their young daughter, Saoirse, was diagnosed with the rare and always fatal neurological condition Batten Disease.
Little Saoirse passed away in January 2011 when she was only five years old.
Tragically the Heffernan’s son Liam was also diagnosed with Batten Disease. He also passed away at the tender age of five in 2014.
Those who would like to get behind the Munster Machine can find more details on the charity’s website, www.bumbleance.com/MunsterMachine