A SWORDS grandmother has said that the county capital cannot afford to have its ambulance service cut after she was forced to make a desperate, life-saving dash to Temple Street with her teenage grandson when an ambulance could not reach them in time.
The high-speed dash to the hospital happened just a few short weeks before it was announced that the town's HSE ambulance would operate on reduced hours and appears to show that the ambulance cover in the town was already inadequate, even before the latest cuts. Mary Dowling (66) was looking after her grandson, Kole McGuirk from Brackenstown, on the August bank holiday weekend when Kole's parents were attending a wedding in Germany. It was one of those rare warm days in the summer and Kole was playing outside with friends when suddenly, Mary saw his friends carry her grandson into the house.
He was struggling to breathe and Mary immediately called the D-Doc service who advised calling an ambulance and getting the 15-year-old to hospital immediately. The Swords woman did exactly that but was shocked when she was told that the only ambulance available in the area was already in use and it would take at least 20 minutes before it arrived at her Abbeylea home so the dispatcher advised that Mary drive herself and try to get a Garda escort. Kole's grandfather put him in the car and Mary made her dash for Temple Street Hospital, driving at high speed with her hazard lights on.
Mary told the Fingal Independent: 'I thought I would go to jail for it – I knew I was speeding but Kole was out flat on the seat and couldn't breathe properly and was just moaning. I really thought he was going to die before we got to the hospital.' After getting slowed by traffic at Whitehall, a motorist pulled alongside Mary's car and asked what was wrong. On hearing the story, he provided an escort for Mary's car and the rest of the journey to Temple Street was done at high speed. 'When we got there it took two of the top doctors there about two-and-a-half hours to get Kole back to normal again where he was talking,' Mary said.
Since then, the 15-year-old has undergone a number of tests for a suspected heart problem on top of the chronic asthma he already suffers. When Mary learned of the cuts to the HSE ambulance hours in Swords that began in September, it made her angry. 'Even before these cuts we were struggling with ambulance cover in Swords – that child could have died that night.' 'I'm very angry to think that there are more cuts to the service. There are so many people both elderly and young depending on an ambulance in Swords which has become a city in itself – it is a very serious problem.' The Swords woman was critical of Minister for Health, James Reilly who she said she met recently in the Pavilions shopping centre in Swords where she raised some of her concerns about the health service but said she did not get a response from the minister who she described as 'arrogant'. Mary has an added worry about the ambulance cuts because she suffers from heart problems herself and has been in and out to hospital numerous times in recent years, sometimes requiring an ambulance to get there.