Unique children’s ambulance service creating a buzz in Donegal

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Families from Donegal have been sharing their experiences and gratitude towards a children’s ambulance service which is winning praise and support across the country.

In recent months, posters and images of a smiling little bee emblazoned on an ambulance have been popping up right across Inishowen.

This is the now well-recognised emblem of BUMBLEance’ and a number of fundraisers have been taking place across the peninsula for what is a vital service for children not just in Donegal, but across the whole country.

BUMBLEance is part of The Saoirse Foundation, set up by Tony and Mary Heffernan in memory of their children.

Tony and Mary saw first hand the need for this service as they had to transport both of their children to and from hospital on a regular basis. In September 2009, at the age of just four, their beautiful daughter Saoirse was diagnosed with Battens disease, a rare fatal neurological condition. Just six months later their only son Liam was diagnosed with the same fatal disorder.

Both Saoirse and Liam were just five years of age when they grew their Angel Wings in January 2011 and May 2014 respectfully. Tony and Mary wanted to do something to ensure that no other family would have to go through the pressures and stress of transporting a sick child to and from treatment centres, hence, BUMBLEance was born.

The parents saw, at first-hand, the “stress that travelling from rural Ireland to treatment centres” caused their little girl.

With this in mind, BUMBLEance ensures the most safe, comfortable and entertaining journey possible for a critically ill child in need of ambulance transportation to and from any treatment centre in Ireland.

This is especially important for children and their carers in counties such as Donegal, who are living quite a bit away from a treatment centre and for whom journeys may be long and stressful.

This is where BUMBLEance steps in. You see, this is no ordinary ambulance. Working in partnership with the National Ambulance Service, BUMBLEance encapsulates all that is good and fun about childhood while providing the highest standards in medical care. Each vehicle is equipped with a top-of-the-range entertainment facility specifically designed and tailored for children. This includes bright and fun interior decor, wifi, play stations, iPads, colouring books, sensory lighting, DVDS and even social media streaming so loved ones can stay in touch. Children are also gifted with a BEE-BRAVE gift for journeying on BUMBLEance.

The aim is to provide stress free journeys for the young patient and carer in fun, state-of-the art vehicles, which will comfort them as well as distract and entertain.

Local woman Sophie Hegarty told of the huge difference and value the service has to her family.

She said: “BUMBLEance provides such an amazing service for terminally ill children. The staff at BUMBLEance have been more than helpful and accommodating to my little sister and her needs this past few years and for that my family and I are very grateful. Seeing this service help so many sick children and their families is truly amazing. “

The service is door to door and there’s even a personal fridge for medication as well as seating space for two parents, carers or siblings. A first-class, professional Medical Team including a Paramedic and EMT are on board and the service also incorporates medical equipment transportation, medication distribution, patient monitoring and support .

For little Donegal boy Jack Beattie and his family, BUMBLEance makes what is an ordinarily “long, stressful and tiring” journey from the county to Dublin “completely relaxing and stress free from start to finish.”

His mother Ruth said: “Jack has so much to entertain and distract him on board, DVD’s, iPads and games and we are always treated liked VIPS. As Jack would say, Hi Five BUMBLEance.”

BUMBLEance also provides a very special and unique service in their Angel Trips. An Angel Trip is specifically designed for a child in palliative care who is making their final journey on earth before they grow their Angel Wings.

BUMBLEance ensures that parents can make this final journey together with their loved one in a compassionate, sensitive and caring environment, so that the family can primarily focus on spending as much quality time together during the child’s remaining days.

Tara Curran’s, whose little girl Erin passed away at six-years-old, told of how special and significant the Angel trip was to their family.

She said: ‘Our Angel Trip with Erin was the last journey we took together, of course you are numb to what is happening at the time, its only when time has passed that you can look back and see what those final days and hours meant and how the people around you did all they could to make it special, dignified and unique for your family.

“The BUMBLEance Team did that for us. For Erin’s siblings, Finn & Aoife, seeing Erin come home in BUMBLEance was so special, it took away from the heartbreak of what was happening. I will be forever grateful to all the BUMBLEance Team for the truly special service they provided.

Due to the increasing demand for the service, the goal of all those behind BUMBLEamce is to roll out a fully dedicated service by this year, where they will be working directly with a variety of key palliative care teams across Ireland. They hope to provide one in each province and one fully operational fleet in Dublin. The long-term aim is to provide expand the fleet as they continue to support sick children nationwide.

Fundraising is critical to the future of the service and you can help in a number of ways. Donate €5 and sponsor a BEE BRAVE BUMBLEance toy for a young patient; Organise a BEE BRAVE fundraising event with friends and family; Sign up your school to fundraise and receive a BUMBLEance pack t-shirts, baseball caps and BUMBLEance support material; Become a Corporate sponsor and promote your logo on one of Ireland’sexclusive BUMBLEances nationwide; Having a Birthday? Directly donate to BUMBLEance through their ‘Donate Your Age, Save A Life’ initiative. You can also directly donate at www.bumbleance.com