Saturday 18 November 2017

The Dublin Hero Award for humble paramedic David Kelly

David Kelly made a special effort for a bereaved mother after the sad death of her two-year-old son, writes Mary Fogarty

David Kelly receiving his award
David Kelly receiving his award
David Kelly with his 98FM award

'I would never ever call myself a hero,' said advanced paramedic David Kelly, following his win at the 98FM Dublin Hero Awards.

He was nominated for the award by the mother of a deceased boy who said that David went over and above the call of duty in his kindness following the death of Zach (2).

David works from the ambulance base in Shankill and he started his career with the Eastern Health Board in December 1996. He is the eldest of three sons of the late Bridie and EJ of Library Road, Shankill. He now lives in Newcastle.

He was one of the first pupils to go to St Anne's National School when it opened in OCtober 1961.

From St Anne's he went to St Brendan's CBS and is a graduate of UCD.

He is very well known in the community of Shankill, having been involved for many years with St Anne's Church, where he was a reader and was also heavily involved in fundraising and the pantomime at ST Anne's School.

He is no stranger to awards having been awarded a National Chubb Alarm Award for his contribution, dedication and initiative in setting up and organising over 55 neighbourhood watch schemes in south county Dublin and north Wicklow.

David is married to Anne Marie, a midwife and phlebotomist at the National Maternity Hospital.

Tragedy struck the Kelly family in March 2014 with the death of their eldest son Jonathan who died by suicide.

The late Jonathan, David Jr and Matthew also attended St Anne's National School.

On December 26 last year, David in a professional capacity along with colleagues attended to a two-year old child in Killiney who had collapsed and was not breathing.

Despite prolonged resuscitation and pre-hospital care, and advanced cardiac life support, two-year-old Zach was pronounced dead at the scene.

Over his many years working in the area of pre-hospital care, David has been involved in treating and dealing with thousands of patients and their families. He has witnessed scenes and sights the majority of people will never witness or see.

He has seen pain, grief, heartbreak, joy and delight for so many families and patients.

Despite all of this, he loves his job with the same commitment and passion which he has had from day one almost 41 years ago.

In May of this year, Zach's mum decided to nominate David for the 98FM Hero of the Year Award.

'David has been an absolute hero to me and my family since Zach died,' she wrote in the nomination. 'I would be in a totally different place without him. He is so selfless and goes above and beyond the call of duty in every way.'

'Following on from Jonathan's death, I got involved with a parent bereavement group called Anam Cara,' said David. 'I've since become a parent facilitator with that group.' He stayed in touch with Zach's mum and explained that Anam Cara was open to her as a bereaved parent if she wanted to go along. 'She subsequently did come along to Anam Cara,' he said.

David said that a team of people battled to try to save Zach that day in December. 'I had a superb paramedic working alongside me by the name of Sinead Kenny,' he said. Dr David Menzies from the emergency department at St Vincent's arrived and the fire fighters from Dun Laogahir fire station arrived. There was a whole team of us. We tried everything, we did everything we possibly did to save that child and it just wasn't to be.' Sadly they were not able to revive the young boy. 'I find it difficult to take this "hero" bit on board. It's a whole team of people.'

On a personal level, David was able to understand the pain of losing a child. 'Her child was two, my child was 26, but it's still your child,' he said.

Out of hundreds of nominations, and over 800,000 votes, David reached the final five and attended a recent ceremony in the RDS. There, he was announced as the 98FM Hero of the Year for 2017 for his outstanding contribution to people and to the capital.

He was presented with his award by Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr.

He didn't know walking into the RDS on the night of the awards that he would win. 'I had absolutely no idea,' he said. 'There were five very good nominees in the final. There was a fire-fighter, someone from Community First Responders, a lady from a homeless group, and someone from the emergency department in Crumlin. I wouldn't have thought it would be me. Anyone was so worthy of winning it.'

He has received many messages of support and thanks from people all over the country who remember his help over the years in situations both tragic and joyful. 'One family told me their father died 32 years ago. They hadn't seen me for 32 years, but they remembered me at the scene,' said David. 'Another girl wrote to me because I delivered her baby in the front room on the floor 14 years ago!'

David said that he is most humbled by the nomination and absolutely thrilled and delighted to with this wonderful award, where members of the public made him the Dublin Hero. Having given his whole life to the care and welfare of others, David said that this accolade is 'the icing on the cake'.

He was touched that Zach's mother thought of nominating him, during her own time of grief. 'To think that a mum who has been grieving for just a few months is remarkable. It's three and a half years since the death of my son and I'm still grieving. She sat down and literally wrote a piece to nominate me. That nomination, even if you never won, was something very special.'

She came to the ceremony and it was an emotional evening, during which David dedicated the award to Zach, and his own son Jonathan.

Bray People

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