'The service is saving people’s lives and that’s better than any payment': Corkman devoted to volunteer work with air ambulance

'The service is saving people’s lives and that’s better than any payment': Corkman devoted to volunteer work with air ambulance

Volunteer firefighter James Casey with the fire tender on standby for the air ambulance helicopter arrivals and departures at Rathcool Aerodrome, Knockcahill, Rathcoole, Mallow. 

A VOLUNTEER firefighter for the Cork-based air ambulance shed light on a rescue that led to him being reconnected with an old friend whose life was saved by the team.

James Casey, who has a day job working as a contracts manager with a construction company, said he is often asked why he devotes so much of his time without monetary reward to the Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) air ambulance.

The reason, he says, is better than any payment he could ever receive. He described how a surprise call from a man he had known a long time ago made his efforts worthwhile.

Speaking as part of The Echo’s Air Ambulance series he said: “We volunteer firefighters are a small cog in the wheel but we have to be on standby as the aircraft can’t operate without us. That really hit home for me a few months ago when I got a call at 8.30 in the morning from a voice I didn’t recognise. We never know who the people that we’re helping are but this man was one of them.

“He told me that it had taken a while to find my details but he wanted to make every effort to thank me for saving his life. I explained to him that his life being saved had nothing to do with me and it was all down to the paramedics. 

"He said that I was wrong and reminded me that I was a part of that team. He reminded me that I was a vital cog in the wheel.”

The man, who had been rescued by the crew after experiencing a cardiac arrest, went on to tell him that he was doing a very important job and to keep up the good work.

“It was unusual for me to get a call like that on a Monday morning. It turned out we had known each other previously and both lived in the same village at one point. We hadn’t spoken for 20 years but when he went to the base after a period of recuperation my name was mentioned.

“The last thing I was expecting was that call but it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m not a tall man but that day I felt 10ft. I’ve had work colleagues ask me why I get up at 7am for a 12-hour shift without getting anything out of it. My answer is that phone call. 

"The service is making a difference, it’s saving people’s lives and that’s better than any payment.”

The ICRR air ambulance was tasked to 490 incidents across 13 counties during its first full year in operation in 2020. Based in Rathcoole, it works in tandem with the National Ambulance Service to offer paramedic assistance and transport seriously ill patients to hospital. Figures from the ICRR show that July was the single busiest month, with the air ambulance being tasked a total of 59 times. Road traffic accidents account for the most incidents, with a total of 94 taskings throughout the year.

“We have to keep going and stay fresh because we don’t know the minute or hour there might be an incident,” James explained. “We hope that day never comes but we have to prepared regardless. Aircrafts are well maintained but at the end of the day they are still machines and our job is to tend to a fire if it does ever break out.

Mr Casey acknowledged his fellow volunteer firefighters who he said are equally as dedicated.

“I am just one of 10 firefighters who are all dedicated and capable people. The service relies on charity donations.”

For details on how to donate to the cause visit www.icrr.ie.

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