‘They said there was no ambulance and asked if I had transport’

Cork GAA legend, Kevin Hennessy, who drove a dying child to hospital has spoken of his shock when told there was noambulance available to come to his aid.

‘They said there was no ambulance and asked if I had transport’

Vakaris Martinaltis, who would have celebrated his second birthday today, died on Wednesday after a fall at his Co Cork home.

Mr Hennessy, from Castleredmond in Midleton, and a neighbour of the boy, said he was told there was no ambulance available in the area when he called emergency services at about 1pm last Monday.

The toddler had fallen from an upstairs window at his home in a housing estate on the outskirts of the East Cork town.

Mr Hennessy was driving past the boy’s house when he noticed a man leaning over a child in his front garden.

Thinking the man was giving the boy the “kiss of life”, he stopped his car in the middle of the cul-de-sac, to see if he could help.

Mr Hennessy said he had been on a lot of first aid courses and it was the first time he had ever put what he learned about first aid into action. “When I got there the father was very upset. He was a Lithuanian national and his English was not great,” said Mr Hennessy.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Hennessy said the boy’s father told him that the child had fallen out the window.

Mr Hennessy’s daughter, who had been driving behind her father’s car, also stopped at the scene.

She called an ambulance using her father’s mobile phone, asked for an ambulance and then handed the device to her father when a dispatcher came on the line.

Mr Hennessy told the dispatcher what had happened to the boy, who was conscious and crying at the time. After conducting a survey of the child’s body, including his arms and legs, Mr Hennessy said he then tried to keep the boy’s head still.

“The dispatcher told me, not my daughter, because I spoke to him, that there’s no ambulance available in our area and [asked] had we transport,” he said.

Mr Hennessy knew that the man’s wife was at work and had their family car so he told the dispatcher he had his own car available.

After being told to take the boy up to SouthDoc, Mr Hennessy asked about moving the child with a head injury. He was told it was all right to move him. He thought the advice given over the phone was very strange but moved the child anyway.

“He had a graze over his left eye. It was not bleeding but you could see spots of blood. He had another graze on his hairline but the rest of his forehead was swelling.”

He said it was about 1pm when he spoke to the dispatcher.

Mr Hennessy brought the child to SouthDoc in Midleton — about five minutes away, and when they arrived, the boy’s father took his son from the back of the car, went in, and a doctor started examining the child.

“I went out to move my car so I would not be anyone’s way and when I came back in the doctor said he [the boy] must go to Cork University Hospital and he gave me a letter.”

Mr Hennessy said he was driving out of SouthDoc with the father and the boy when the child’s visibly upset mother drove in. The father told her to follow them in the family car.

Driving along, he noticed that the traffic was quite heavy for a bank holiday Monday; he became anxious, dialled 999 on his mobile, and asked for the gardaí.

Mr Hennessy said the gardaí, who were very helpful, prov-ided him with a garda escort to the hospital where a doctor took the child and stripped him down. “He [the boy] had no other bruise on his body,” he recalled.

Mr Hennessy said no further attempt was made to call an ambulance when they reached SouthDoc. They just kept going. He thought it would have been better if they had never stopped at SouthDoc.

“These are all things after the fact. I did what I was told.”

Mr Hennessy said he was shocked when told there was no ambulance available. He had read newspaper reports about how cutbacks had affected ambulance services in other parts of the country.

“This one [ambulance] didn’t come at all,” he said.

He said he was giving his first-hand experience of what happened when the ambulance was called. He would have expected a response when the 999 number was called.

“I got nothing. I was told there wouldn’t be. His exact words were: ‘There is no ambulance in your area at the moment’.”

Mr Hennessy said he was familiar with the children in his neighbourhood because they played on a large green space in front of the houses and knew that the boy has an older sister who was due to make her First Communion next Saturday.

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