THE family of a Dublin woman suffering from a potentially deadly virus in Vietnam, has been told that she would be provided with an air ambulance for free once she is able to fly.
The news has brought immense relief to Karen Hamill's relatives and friends, who until now feared that they would not raise the €100,000 necessary for her repatriation.
Karen (27) has been in intensive care receiving round-the-clock nursing in Ho Chi Minh since she was struck down with a new strain of encephalitis in November.
Doctors have advised that the former recruitment consultant would definitely need an air ambulance and the family had appealed to the Government for help.
Initially they were told that no such provisions were in place for Irish citizens in that region.
However, the family from Tallaght got the "best Christmas present" they could ever hope for when they learned yesterday the HSE would be able to help.
"I was just speaking to an Irish company, Aero Ambulance, yesterday afternoon, who were prepared to bring Karen home for whatever money we had in the fund -- which was fantastic in itself -- when the HSE called," Karen's aunt Dorothy told the Herald.
"No sooner had I put down the phone to them, that Pat Rabbitte said they would bring her home. I burst out crying."
"All money raised to date will be used to fund Karen's continued medical costs in Vietnam and any additional medical and rehabilitation expenses in Ireland," Dorothy added.
Karen's mother Marie, who is in Vietnam by her daughter's bedside, thanked the public for their support during the ordeal.
"I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity, love and support for our beautiful Karen. We will never be able to thank you enough," she said.