‘We can be in the air in three minutes’: Cork-based ambulance crew are always ready to go

In the second part of our three-day series, Sarah Horgan talks to Mícheál Sheridan, CEO of Irish Community Air Ambulance about the type of work they do.
‘We can be in the air in three minutes’: Cork-based ambulance crew are always ready to go

Mícheál Sheridan, CEO Irish Community Air Ambulance. The Irish Community Air Ambulance was tasked to 127 incidents across nine counties during the first three months of 2021. The figures represent a 21% increase compared to the same period last year. Pic: Darragh Kane

AN accident that saw a farmer trampled by his cattle was just one of the emergencies a Cork-based ambulance crew assisted with in recent weeks.

Irish Community Air Ambulance (ICAA, formerly the Irish Community Rapid Response) chief executive Mícheál Sheridan said the service was as much in demand as ever.

Based in Rathcoole in county Cork, the initiative works in tandem with the National Ambulance Service to provide both paramedic support and transport to hospital for seriously ill patients. Reinforcing the need for ongoing donations, Mr Sheridan shed light on the challenges faced by the crew in the last few weeks.

“Farming accidents account for 15% of the calls we get,” he explained. 

“In recent weeks, we had a farmer who was trampled on by his cattle, which was very traumatic for him.”

He added that this and a machinery-related accident involving another farmer resulted in severe injuries, such as collapsed lungs and broken ribs.

“Thankfully, both of them seem to be doing well,” he said. “A farmer can become injured for a number of reasons.

“Farmers getting trampled on is quite a common farming accident. Cows can become very protective of their calves if they receive a threat. It could also be something as unpredictable as cattle getting startled by a dog for a farmer to sustain injuries. Just like with any other animal, it’s never premeditated but can still happen at any time.”

Mr Sheridan highlighted the dangers of farming machinery, referring to one call-out by way of example.

“One man lost his leg and had very severe injuries to the other leg. He kept his eyes closed that entire time. Later he said that he had accepted what had happened, he just didn’t want to see it.

“Every response is different. Some are very stoic in their reactions, while others become very distressed. What the crew has is years of experience that helps them to stay calm and keep the patient calm too.”

He said the most valuable asset the service had to offer was time.

“In reality, what the service offers is time. Anything from a collision to a farming accident can change a person’s life in seconds. We can be in the air in three minutes, reaching anywhere across 25,000sq km.

“If someone has a life-threatening accident, we can transport them to the best hospital possible to suit the type of injuries they have. The aircraft can get patients from Kerry to Cork University Hospital in 20 minutes. There’s nothing that could even compare to that.”

Even when the outcome is tragic, Mícheál and the crew are glad to be a comfort to families.

“You see gratitude from both perspectives. It’s not just the people that have good outcomes who come to us. Some have family members who passed away, but still value the contribution we made to try and keep their loved one alive. At that moment in time, we are part of their life story. Even though that person didn’t make it, their family still valued the part the team played and that they did their best.”

Much of the time, meeting with the crew plays an important part in a patient’s recovery.

“When your life is turned upside down and you’re in that much turmoil, you have no idea who was there or what they did to help you. Naturally, people want to fill in the gaps to help them understand what happened on the day from the crew’s perspective.

“We paint a picture and that can be a big part of their recovery psychologically.”

He said the effect of witnessing an accident can be heartbreaking for families.

“In one incident, a young man died of a cardiac arrest in front of his family at their home. In situations like that, you are conscious of the effect that scene unfolding would have had on the children.

“It prompted us to look at the existing organisations that are out there and work in that space. We have been looking at other agencies like Barnardos and considering passing on the information to families. The idea is not to create a link with any agency. Instead, we’d like to be able to pass on information about supports, if we feel it’s appropriate, that might help them in moving forward.”

ICAA figures revealed that the crew was tasked to 127 incidents across nine counties during the first three months of 2021. The figures represent a 21% increase compared to the same period last year, when they facilitated 105 call outs.

The figures also show that March was the busiest month since the start of the year, with the ICAA being tasked a total of 47 times. There were 41 missions in February compared and 39 in January.

Cardiac arrests account for the most incidents, with a total of 32 taskings between January and the end of March.

  • To find out more about the charity or to donate visit https://icrr.ie/air-ambulance/

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