Two Cork paramedics who battled through Storm Ophelia to save the life of an elderly woman on a remote farm, clearing roads of trees and fallen branches with crowbars and hacksaws as they struggled to reach her, are to be presented with National Bravery Awards.
On Monday, Oct 16, 2017, advanced paramedic, Olive Murphy, and paramedic, James Hennessy, were on duty at Clonakilty Ambulance Station in West Cork when they received an emergency callout to a remote farmhouse where an elderly woman’s supply of supplemental oxygen had been shut off as a result of power cuts.
A National Status Red Wind Warning had been issued by Met Eireann, but Olive, who has spent nearly 20 years with the ambulance service, and colleague James (39) who has been with the service for nine years, immediately responded to the SOS.
“It was a relatively remote farm in the middle of a wood in the Dunmanway region. An old lady, living alone and housebound was on supplementary oxygen,” recalls Olive, a mother-of-one in her 40s who lives in Bandon.
However, the woman’s oxygen supply, which was electricity-powered, had been cut off after falling trees knocked out her power supply. James, who lives in Ballinascarthy, explained: “This lady needed the supplementary oxygen to survive."
If the woman had not been re-connected to an oxygen supply in time, her life could have been in danger. Olive recalls:
She would not have had enough oxygen in her system to survive if we hadn’t been able to reach her. It was very wild, very windy and coming up to the peak of the storm.
At several points, Olive and James had to dismount from the ambulance and clear the road of fallen trees - in a storm-force gale - using a special ambulance tool-kit which contained crowbars, hacksaws and bolt-cutters. On occasion, when they were unable to clear the blocked roads themselves, they were forced to divert or wait for assistance.
After providing the patient with pre-hospital care in her home, they transported her to Bantry General Hospital. In terms of weather and roads, James says now, that callout “was probably one of the worst in the year"
“It was very scary being out at work in that storm,” says Olive who adds that she had been nervous about coming into work that day, as “I knew we would be out in it all day - however, work took over and you just took it all one job at a time!”
The annual honours are awarded by Comhairle na Mire Gaile - the Deeds of Bravery Council, which was founded in 1947 to enable State recognition of exceptional acts of courage.
*The awards will be presented by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD on Friday, Oct 18 in Farmleigh.