Parents’ lives change from one moment to the next when their children suffer an incurable illness. Tony and Mary Heffernan from Ireland experienced precisely this fate. Their two-year-old daughter, Saoirse, was diagnosed with Dollinger-Bielschowsky Syndrome. This extremely rare disease impairs the infant’s mental development and results in mental deterioration as the disease progresses. The young Saoirse died from the complications three years later. Tragically, her brother Liam also had to battle the same disease during this time, as well.
The children’s parents went on to found the “Saoirse Foundation” and launched the “BUMBLEance” project, among other initiatives. This provides a unique service: Special ambulance transport for seriously ill and disabled children. Tony and Mary Heffernan had the idea during a four-hour journey to Dublin with their sick daughter, Saoirse: “We have experienced just how stressful it can be to transport a sick child. You have to stop constantly, have all of the medications with you and take care of the child. This is incredibly draining on long journeys”, explains Tony Heffernan. Many other parents share the same problem because the medical facilities are often a long way from home. BUMBLEance makes the long journeys between the hospitals and the care facilities far less arduous for the young patients. Thanks to hundreds of voluntary workers, even families living in rural areas can also make use of the service. Extensive entertainment equipment allows the children to watch films, play games or surf the Internet, making the journey easier and distracting them from their fear and pain. In addition, the Sprinter is also fitted with the latest medical equipment, guaranteeing reliable care during the journey. The Sprinter sports colorful paintwork and all of the medical equipment is carefully concealed to keep the young passengers’ minds off their illness.
“Our motto is to make every journey as positive as possible for the children. The service is free and we want to ease the strain on the parents, above all. Because the journey in the BUMBLEance is also often one of the last for some patients. Given that safety and quality are the most important things for us, the Sprinter is perfect for our purposes”, explains Michelle Daly-Hayes, the foundation’s communications manager. With the following story she describes just how much people appreciate the project: “One of the parents told us that their two-year-old child laughed for the first time in months during a journey in the BUMBLEance Sprinter. That is something very special for us.”