TAKING AN AMBULANCE trip can be extremely stressful for both parents and children – but now Ireland has its first child-friendly ambulance, called BUMBLEance.
The brainchild of Tony Heffernan, who tirelessly campaigns for the Bee for Battens charity that he set up with his wife Mary after their children were diagnosed with Battens Disease, the ambulance will make trips to hospital a radically different experience for families.
The parents also set up the non-profit charity, the Saoirse Foundation, after their daughter Saoirse died from the disease.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Tony Heffernan said that that, as a parent, when critically ill children travel by ambulance transport “you are very nervous, the kid’s nervous”.
The BUMBLEance means that parents and children can travel together, that all the equipment they need can fit in the vehicle, and that the whole experience can be a positive one.
The vehicle looks like a giant bumble bee on the outside, but inside it has hidden state of the art medical equipment and plenty of ‘gadgets and gizmos’ to entertain children.
The child, using a single controller, is able to operate a 19-inch LED TV, DVD, iPad, Nubi, and Sony PlayStation console, with a full library of films, apps, e-books, music and games available.
On-board WiFi allows internet browsing and social media engagement, as well as Skype calls. Members of the public will be able to message or tweet their best wishes to the child on-board, who can track their progress using satellite monitoring.
There are also two fridges available for storing food, beverages and medicine.
Positive life impacts
Bee for Battens is all about “making positive life impacts for sick children” and this ambulance is proof of that. Heffernan first came up with the idea ftwo years ago when he saw that Donegal councillor Paul Canning was giving away an ambulance to a needy family.
Heffernan got in touch to say if he donated the ambulance to him, he would be able to help many families use it.
While that ambulance ended up not being suitable for use, the Heffernans worked for 18 months on the Bumbleance concept. Now they have joined up with Lifeline to provide families with the ambulance service.
The aim is to keep the ambulance in use almost constantly – currently it is based in Leixlip, but it can travel around the country to bring people to major hospitals. When in different towns, it can also be used to bring children on smaller local journeys.
There is one restriction to keeping it going – money. “We need between €150,000 and €180,000 a year to keep it on the road for 52 weeks,” said Heffernan.
Donations from supporters can help keep it going. The charity is also hoping to collect 30,000 used mobile phones, sufficient to allow the service operate for 52 weeks of the year.
The hope is to eventually have five BUMBLEances throughout the country, enabling more families to benefit.