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Farmer gored by bull recalls how Irish Air Ambulance saved his life

The Emergency Aeromedical Service is based in Athlone and is staffed by Irish Air Corps and National Ambulance Service staff.

Johnny Lyons, centre, with his family at Casement Aerodrome yesterday.
Johnny Lyons, centre, with his family at Casement Aerodrome yesterday.
Image: Irish Defence Forces

ON THE TENTH anniversary of the Irish Air Corps and HSE air ambulance service a farmer has recalled how the service saved his life after he was gored by a bull in rural Mayo.

Johnny Lyons suffered horrific injuries when a bull attacked him on his farm in Killimor. 

Yesterday, speaking at Casement Aerodrome in Dublin, Lyons spoke about his gratitude for the pilots and medics.

“I live in a rural area and the helicopter was with me in seven minutes from Athlone and I was in Galway Hospital 11 minutes after that. That was vital for me with the injuries that I had sustained,” he said. 

Lyons suffered multiple rib fractures, two collapsed lungs and a serious head injury in the incident. He was knocked unconscious by the bull but when he came through he drove home in shock – it was when he reached there that he collapsed. 

His next memory is of the moment a paramedic arrived, but he has no memory of the helicopter flight to hospital in Galway.

“It was very, very beneficial. It saved my life, it’s as simple as that. They told me I got a heart attack on the way in the helicopter. The helicopter made it to me in seven minutes from Athlone and the trip to Galway took 11 minutes. So that was vital for me,” he said. 

johnny lyons and family Johnny Lyons, centre, with his family at Casement Aerodrome yesterday. Source: Irish Defence Forces

The Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), based at Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath, is a joint project between the HSE and the Defence Forces.

Air Corps flight crews work alongside National Ambulance Service Advance Paramedics in a dedicated military helicopter for the rapid transfer of critical patients to the most appropriate hospital in the country.

It was initially set up in 2012 for a 12-month trial period and its aim, according to the Irish Defence Forces, was to assess the level and type of dedicated Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) required in Ireland in light of recent closures of regional facilities such as Roscommon Hospital.

Since its inception, it has become a vital asset in terms of critical pre-hospital care and has completed more than 3500 missions.

Another patient who came to the event was Sarah Fennan – she participates in motorcycle racing and availed of the EAS service on two occasions.

Her most recent incident was at a motocross track in County Offaly in August 2021 where she was badly injured in a crash and the helicopter brought to hospital in Tallaght.

sarah fennan Sarah Fennan at Casement Air Corps base, Dublin yesterday.

Fennan’s first incident was four years before that when she broke her femur in a motocross collision.

“It was the last race, last lap and I don’t remember exactly what happened, I don’t remember even getting airlifted. I just remember waking up in the hospital and found I broke both my arms,” she said. 

Sarah believes the service is helpful particularly for her sport given that they compete in difficult to reach areas.

She also paid particular tribute to her advanced paramedic Eoghan who cared for her and later visited her when she was recovering in hospital. 

“They were there so quick, and they have you sorted on the track, getting my pain relief sorted, and they kept me calm. 

“They’re all lovely. And even when I was in Tallaght Hospital the last time, Eoghan who was dealing with me, the paramedic, came in to visit me on the second day. So it was lovely to see that,” she said. 

Advanced paramedic Pat Moran from the National Ambulance Service has been involved in the Athlone operation since the beginning ten years ago.  

He said said the transition from ambulance to helicopter was a difficult one but said it was an incredible asset for rural Ireland.  

“The inception was as a result of the the consolidation of hospital services. Initially, the catalyst was the closing of Roscommon A&E.

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“With all the fallout that potentially came from that, it was decided it was over a trial basis for nine months to a year. It was to decide was there first a demand and would this make a difference to the overall treatment of patients in a rural area,” he explained. 

50750782622_ac82498c88_o An Air Ambulance HSE/NAS Advanced Paramedic on a call out. Source: Irish Defence Forces

Moran said that the treatment the patient gets in the back of the helicopter is identical to that received in the back of an ambulance, but through experience the medics have been able to streamline the process. 

“I don’t want to make it sound impossible. It is very doable. But there’s quite a bit of experience and skill level to that. And that’s where the experience shines through,” he explained. 

General Officer Commanding Air Corps, Brigadier General Rory O’Connor said that the EAS unit has brought a sense of immense pride to the Air Corps.

“This service has made an incredible difference to the people of the State. It’s the hard work, dedication and professionalism of the people involved in providing the service that should be acknowledged here today,” he said. 

Meanwhile the Irish Community Air Ambulance, based in North Cork, has said it responded to the highest number of road traffic collisions in a single month since the organisation first launched.

The Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Air Ambulance was tasked to 15 separate crashes during May alone.

The charity helicopter, which has started a major fundraising drive, responded to 205 incidents in the first five months of this year. There were 48 taskings in May alone, up from 42 during April

The callouts during May also included six farming or equestrian incidents. Cork accounted for one in four of the calls followed by Kerry, Tipperary, Clare, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick and Carlow. In total, 17 people were airlifted to hospitals in Cork and Limerick during May.

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