Ambulance, anyone?

Colr. Paul Canning inside his customised ambulance. (1208PG72)
Colr. Paul Canning inside his customised ambulance. (1208PG72)

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the old adage goes. And Paul Canning of Ballylawn, Manorcunnigham - a well known Fianna Fail councillor in Inishowen - found a unique solution when he was faced with a dilemma of how to provide transport for his daughter, Vanessa, who was born with a rare bone disease Oesteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone)

In her short life fourteen year old Vanessa, the only child of Paul and his wife, Stephanie, has been the victim of a long list of injuries. And it was something her parents urgently needed to sort out.

Paul explained yesterday: “Due to the number of leg breaks and major operations that Vanessa was having we, as a couple, struggled to transport her about whilst she was in plaster.

“We thought about purchasing a camper van and converting it but this was going to be a major operation as camper vans are not designed with large doors etc, so we decided to speak to an ambulance driver Fergus Mc Carron in Letterkenny and to seek his advice as to how we could do a conversion.

“As it turned out we couldn’t have come to a better family.”

Within a short time Paul received a phone call from Fergus who informed him that the Health Board were selling decommissioned ambulances in Ballyshannon ‘on a certain date’

“I arrived on that day and was able to purchase an ambulance at a knock down price thanks to all the people that were there that day and the co-operation of the health board officials.

“We made a lot of use of the ambulance taking Vanessa to and from Letterkenny Hospital, Crumlin Hospital in Dublin, we even took her across to Sheffield Hospital where she got a major operation done on both her legs. This ambulance provided a great service to us as a family in helping us to make life more comfortable for Vanessa in travelling. All we didwas added a T.V. for her entertainment.”

But riding around in an ambulance does have its moments: “One of the days we were transporting Vanessa to Dublin Hospital we came on an accident in Emyvale. As I approached the accident I could see vehicles starting to allow us through, I went into a cold sweat but continued to take advantage of the cue skipping but thankfully another ambulance arrived on the scene, just as I was getting to the casualties. Vanessa and her mother continued watching T.V without blinking an eye. Thankfully we didn’t have too many incidents like that.”

It was after this that the Cannings decided to repaint and take off the decals to make it look less like the real thing. As Paul says himself his medical knowledge is hardly up to the required level!

Give away ambulance

As he was helped once, Paul now wants to help another family: “We have the Ambulance for a good few years now, thankfully we don’t have a use for it anymore, so just as Fergus Mc Carron and his family helped us out when we needed it most , we (Stephanie, Vanessa and I ) are giving this ambulance away free to any family or organisation that will use it as an ambulance and has a need for it.”

Anybody interested in obtaining the vehicle please contact the Derry Journal.