A major fundraising drive kicks off across West Cork this weekend to secure a top-of-the-range emergency response vehicle for a doctor who has saved dozens of lives — in his spare time.
During 95 after-hours call-outs this year, Dr Jason van der Velde has restarted seven hearts, delivered three babies, and saved on average two lives every month in rural West Cork.
Those statistics relate only to his voluntary efforts in the region — all performed after he had finished his day job saving lives in the emergency department of Cork University Hospital.
A pre-hospital emergency medicine and critical care retrieval physician, he manages the HSE’s National 24-hour Emergency Telemedical Support Unit, Medico Cork, which provides emergency advice and support to the crew of vessels at sea, and to islanders.
However, he has also been a volunteer with West Cork Rapid Response unit since its inception in 2009.
The voluntary group works in partnership with the HSE medical emergency services in the region, parts of which are more than 190km from Cork City.
However, the group’s response 4x4 is in a battered state and costs are spiralling — the recent replacement of flashing lights alone cost €1,400.
A new 3.2lt Ford-built Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 is in the process of being fitted out with essential medical equipment and will cost around €70,000.
Supporters of the Rapid Response group are confident the vehicle will be ready by mid-October.
A community association in Ballinascarthy is now leading the charge to help fund the vehicle.
The village, on the main Bandon-Clonakilty road, has a long association with the Ford family, with company founder Henry Ford’s ancestors emigrating from Ballinascarthy in the 1800s.
Kate Crowley, a member of Ballinascarthy Community Association, said the ‘Jeep for Jason’ campaign emerged after the village donated proceeds from Christmas concerts and carol singing to Rapid Response last January.
“Dr Jason mentioned about the sorry state of the emergency jeep and we decided to get in touch with Eddie Murphy, chief executive of Ford, and requested help due to the special relationship West Cork has with the motor company’s founder,” said Ms Crowley.
“We have to come up with a certain amount of money by mid-October to secure the vehicle.
“This is a huge opportunity for every town and village to play its part in making West Cork a safer place to live.”
Ballinascarthy is organising a 5km walk from 12pm on Sunday and all drivers passing along the N71 are asked to donate.
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