22-year-old Emma McGuire from Douglas in Cork might not be alive today without the services of the Irish Community Air Ambulance (ICAA).
Emma was travelling to Tralee with a friend on March 8 of last year when they were involved in a serious car accident between Killarney and Tralee.
The last thing she remembers before the crash is coming to the roundabout in Killarney. Her next memory is waking up in hospital more than 24 hours later.
She had been flown by the ICAA to Cork University Hospital in a critical condition - her spleen had burst and she had to be resuscitated.
Emma underwent emergency surgery that night to remove her spleen and the following day had further surgery on her femur and ankle.
She also underwent surgery at Tallaght University Hospital on March 23 for a fractured pelvis before returning to CUH. It was June before she could finally return home.
The injuries Emma suffered that day have made her recovery challenging. She still walks with a crutch.
Emma said the majority of people in an accident as serious as hers don’t survive it. There was a fatality in the other car that day.
"The Air Ambulance was there to fly me. 20 years ago it might not have been possible for me to survive that crash."
Emma hopes to finally meet her rescuers in person this summer after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
"I want them to be able to see how their work has paid off. I’m so grateful to them, I’m so lucky that there was something or someone looking out for me that day."
To give back to the group that saved her, Emma enlisted the help of friends and family for a ‘Marching Through March’ challenge.
The group set an ambitious target of walking 10 million steps between them; they walked 3,272km in total.
Emma said the challenge gave her motivation as the one-year anniversary of the accident approached.
"It focused my mind on something positive, instead of focusing on the negative I was able to say 'it’s a year later, I’m walking with a crutch and I’m actually able to do this'."
Emma reached her initial €5,000 target within 24 hours. She ended up raising more than €14,000 for her heroes.
"I never would have imagined that my life could be so dependent on a service like that and it goes to show how necessary the Air Ambulance is."
The Irish Community Air Ambulance responded to 127 emergencies in nine different counties during the first three months of this year, according to new figures.
The busiest month for the Cork-based organisation was March, when they were tasked with 47 incidents; they completed a further 41 missions in February and 39 in January.
Demand for the service has increased by 21% in the first 12 weeks of this year. In the same period last year, the group were called out to 105 incidents.
Most of the emergency incidents occurred in Cork and Kerry, but the ICAA also responded to calls in Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and Mayo.
Road traffic collisions and farming incidents each accounted for 18 of the call-outs.
15 incidents related to general trauma, and 15 others related to general medical calls.
Ten incidents related to fall from heights, while four more were equestrian incidents.
ICAA chief executive Mícheál Sheridan said the figures illustrate the increasing demand for his group's service.
"The ICAA Air Ambulance is airborne in under four minutes of being tasked by the National Ambulance Service, and is 30 minutes away from most of the areas within its catchment," he said.
Mr Sheridan believes 2021 will be the busiest and most significant year yet for his organisation.
"We are going to grow and expand and continue to help those who need us," he added.