TWO young women from West Cork are planning to walk the Portuguese Camino this April in memory of their late aunt and to raise funds for the Irish Community Air Ambulance.
Anita Johnson from Dunbeacon and Clodagh Cleary from Ballydehob were inspired to take on the challenge after they saw first-hand the vital work the air ambulance does when their beloved aunt Helen Sheehan was airlifted from her home in Schull to CUH last September after falling ill.
‘Time was of the essence and the emergency services made the call to send the community air ambulance to her home where it was able to land in her garden.
‘Without the air ambulance, Helen would have faced a journey of at least one hour 40 minutes to CUH and her family was put a little more at ease by the amazing care, kindness and dignity they showed her during this trip,’ said Clodagh.
Anita said the timely transfer to hospital gave Helen the best chance of survival which meant her daughter Aisling got back home from the Caymen Islands to see her.
‘Sadly Helen passed away one week later on October 9th. It was devastating, but even during this time of mourning our families continue to speak fondly of the air ambulance professionalism,’ she said.
Clodagh described Helen as being like a second ‘second mother.’
Helen was born in Dunbeacon but spent the majority of her life looking out over Schull harbour in Meenvane with her adoring husband Thomas, and their children Tony, Karen, Colin and Aisling.
Later in life three beautiful grandchildren brought Helen so much fun and laughter and were her pride and joy.
From raising kids, to driving to every football pitch in West Cork to support Gabriel Rangers and still finding time to run the business behind her husband’s trawler, she was utterly devoted to her family, said Clodagh.
‘She had her priorities right in her life,’ explained Clodagh. ‘As Thomas and Colin worked at sea, Helen was always very aware of the dangers at sea and gave generously to any rescue or medical care charities possible,’ she said. That’s another reason that Clodagh, who works at Carbery, and Anita, a sports and physical therapist, are undertaking the 100km along the camino during a week-long trip from April 24th, covering 20km a day.
‘Our goal if possible is to raise enough money to fund two trips for the air ambulance, that’s €7,000, and make sure people know it does not get any government funding. We want people to know this vital service is essential.
‘The majority of people in West Cork live over an hour from hospitals like CUH and we never know when any of our loved ones may need this service.’