Audrey Murnane was overcome with emotion as she left her home in Cork for London yesterday with her twins — who were born with a life-threatening condition — as they prepared to undergo a vital procedure in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) tomorrow.
“I can’t believe it really. It is very emotional,” said Audrey.
“The support has been enormous. People have been fantastic, and we wouldn’t be here today, going to London, if it wasn’t for them. I didn’t think we’d get here, but we are very lucky.”
Little Zoe and Maya were singing Christmas songs, blissfully unaware of what was in store as the BUMBLEance, Ireland’s first interactive ambulance service for sick children, rolled up outside their home in Ballincollig.
And with help from Lifeline Ambulance paramedics Shane Deegan and Lucy Holton, they were moved into the state-of-the-art vehicle, which is loaded with toys and consoles, for the drive to the airport.
Ms Holton accompanied the family on the flight to London before transferring the twins into the care of GOSH.
The ambulance is owned by the Saoirse Foundation, which was founded by Corkman Tony Heffernan, whose daughter Saoirse died from Batten disease in Jan 2011, and whose son Liam is in the final stages of the incurable disease.
It has been on the road since September, and there are plans to introduce at least four more vehicles over the coming years.
Mr Heffernan said he was delighted to be able to help Audrey, who fundraised several years ago for Saoirse’s cause.
“Our charity was set up to help people. We do what we say on the tin — make positive impacts on sick kids,” he said.
“It is also a great support for Audrey, taking a lot of pressure off her knowing that the girls can be transported with paediatric assistance.
“We are a national charity without state support, with a CEO who gets no salary, and no top-up, and we are delivering. Every cent goes to help sick children.”
Audrey fought back tears as the twins were strapped into car seats in the back of the BUMBLEance.
“I just want to say a huge thank you to everybody.
“It’s a hard time of the year when people might not have so much money. So it’s been very, very kind and generous of people to donate to something like this. I really appreciate it.”
She said she hopes to return to charity work next year to help people in similar situations and “give something back”.
The 18-month-old twin girls were born with long segment tracheal stenosis, which causes an obstruction in the trachea — the airway tube that links the throat to the lungs.
They are the only twins in Ireland with the condition and need a regular procedure to keep their airways open.
Frustrated by the Irish medical system, Audrey asked doctors in GOSH to assess the girls’ medical files and they agreed to perform the procedure.
With the backing of Munster Rugby, Audrey has spent the last month raising the €34,000 needed to cover the cost of the procedure. She has raised enough to pay for it, future procedures, and ongoing care for the twins.
Tomorrow will see them undergo a bronchoscopy and a dye test to evaluate their condition, and then the insertion of a special balloon to stretch their airways.
They are due back in Cork on Sunday.
* Facebook: Help Zoe & Maya, bumbleance.com