(l to ri) Tony and Mary Heffernan, founders of BUMBLEance; Eilish Hardiman, Chief Executive, CHI, Dr Ciara Martin, Paul Harding and Helen Flynn, CHI at Connolly.
The death of their beloved daughter prompted one Co Kerry family to ensure that life was made a little easier for other sick children.
Tony and Mary Heffernan set up the Saoirse Foundation, named after their daughter who sadly lost her life in 2011 at the family home at the tender age of five. Saoirse had the rare and always fatal neurological condition, Batten Disease.
The foundation owns and operates BUMBLEance, the world’s first fully interactive Children’s Ambulance Service. It launched its latest vehicle at the Children’s Hospital Ireland’s (CHI) new paediatric Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital, Dublin.
This new bespoke service will provide daily interhospital transfers between the new Urgent Care Centre and the CHI at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght. The 2020 vehicle was built in Ireland by BUMBLEance and was funded 100% by public donations via this not-for-profit charity. The vehicle was specifically designed for sick children and their families and built using the latest Mercedes Benz Chassis and will be operated in partnership with the National Ambulance Service.
Speaking at the launch, Tony and Mary said, “We are excited to launch this new vehicle to assist parents and especially their sick children to access the best health care in Ireland using our newest vehicle. We hope our service will support thousands of additional ‘King and Queen Bees’ each year for many years to come.”
Tragically the Heffernan’s lost their only other child, son Liam, to the same illness. He was the first child to ride in the BUMBLEance in September 2013. Sadly, Liam and his parents took an ‘Angel Trip’, his final journey on earth, in a BUMBLEance shortly before passing away at home in May 2014, aged five. Tony is the voluntary CEO of the organisation.
Dale Adams from Co Wexford, whose daughter Maisie used the BUMBLEance Critical Care service in 2016, was full of praise for the impact of the special ambulance.
“Maisie was critically ill and struggling to breathe when she was transferred by BUMBLEance, but the sight of the cheery BUMBLEance bees made her smile for the first time in what had been an extremely tough 48 hours. Thankfully Maisie is completely fine now,” he said.
Eilísh Hardiman, Chief Executive, CHI, thanked all members of the public who donated to BUMBLEance.
“This new dedicated vehicle will help us transfer our patients quickly and safely in an ambulance that is specifically built for the needs of children. Children will use the BUMBLEance if they need to be admitted to inpatient bed or access a specialist service in one of our hospitals,” she said.
“The Urgent Care Centre at Connolly opened in July 2019. Here we look after children and young people from the local area with minor illnesses and minor injuries. We provide a short stay observation service for patients to complete treatment over six hours before going home. Critical to the safe and efficient operation of the Urgent Care Centre is the transfer of patients who require further inpatient treatment at CHI Temple Street, Crumlin or Tallaght.”
In September 2013, BUMBLEance became the world’s first fully interactive Children’s Ambulance Service. It provides a free national service for critically and seriously ill children, who require transportation between their home and hospitals, hospices, national treatment centres and respite centres, the charity’s aim is to support and care for its special guests with state of the art and fun vehicles. BUMBLEance has been supporting critical and urgent care transfers with two existing vehicles in partnership with the National Ambulance Service for several years. BUMBLEance which owns all the vehicles, also operates vehicles independently from its four regional bases across the country.
Approximately 10,000 trips have been completed by BUMBLEances since it was launched by the Heffernans, who today support hundreds of families on an ongoing basis. The Heffernans, who were awarded the People of the Year and Pride of Ireland awards, among others, have also created both the ‘Children’s Chemo Cab’, bringing children to and from cancer treatments, and BUMBLEair, a free air transport service for sick children.
The couple are urgently seeking support from the public and business community to replace some of its older vehicles Ireland and develop two further regional bases in the midwest and south-east and extend its services in Northern Ireland.