By Kieran O’Mahony
TWO West Cork paramedics who battled the elements of Storm Ophelia by clearing fallen trees to reach an elderly patient who was in difficulty were presented with National Bravery Awards last week.
James Hennessey from Ballinascarthy and Olive Murphy from Bandon, who both work out of the Clonakilty Ambulance Station in Clonakilty, were nominated by their line manager Barry Hayes for the awards.
In fact, for Olive, this is the second Bravery Award to be bestowed on her family. Her husband Brian received a similar award three years ago after he jumped into the Bandon river to save a man.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Olive said they were very honoured and surprised to have been nominated.
‘It’s lovely to have the acknowledgement and it was strange too as we weren’t expecting it all and we were really both surprised. We didn’t know anything until we got a certificate in the post about it,’ said Olive.
‘Storm Ophelia got a lot of attention on the day because of the intensity of the storm and while it was a very scary day it was still a day of work for us.’ With a National Status Red wind warning in place on October 16th 2017, Olive and James responded to a 999 call to a patient in the West Cork area who was on home oxygen which was powered by electricity.
As there was a power cut in the area the oxygen was no longer working and there was concern for the patient’s welfare.
‘The conditions on the day were very bad and when we got the call we headed out but we found it very difficult to get there,’ said James.
‘A number of the routes were blocked and we had to detour a number of times, which led to longer travel times. What would normally take 20 minutes stretched to over an hour.’
They both had to get out of the ambulance on a few occasions and move branches out of the way using tools in the ambulance
‘We had to very careful of our route, too, as the ambulance is very heavy and it’s not very good on a bad surface or a field,’ added Olive.
Once they arrived the patient was given pre-hospital care in their home and was then safely transported to Bantry General Hospital, which was another challenge for them, as all the regular routes were blocked with fallen trees and power lines.
‘We actually ended up going down west to Ahakista for the next call and the roads were desperate there too. It was a very scary day to work, to be honest.’
The National Bravery Awards took place in Farmleigh House in Dublin last Friday October 18th.