The service will bring children with life-limiting illnesses on their final journey home or to hospice to die.
More than one in ten of the journeys that BUMBLEance – the Children’s National Ambulance Service – already makes are “angel trips”.
But demand is so high that a the BUMBLEance fleet is being expanded to allow a new dedicated end-of-life service vehicle. It will be run in conjunction with volunteers from the Dublin Fire Brigade who will be on-call to bring children on their final journey home.
Its hoped the service will be fully operational by the end of May bringing the BUMBLEance fleet to seven.
The BUMBLEance service was founded by Tony and Mary Heffernan of the Saoirse Foundation. Their two children Saoirse and Liam died from the rare genetic brain disorder, Batten’s disease. Both were only five years old when they died.
Tony told eHospice.com his trips to hospitals in Dublin with Saoirse from their home in County Kerry inspired the BUMBLEance service.
“As her condition worsened we could no longer transport her ourselves in a car or even in an adapted mini bus. She needed an ambulance and care during her journeys. However State run ambulances are not child friendly environments.
“When she was in the car we had a DVD in the head rest for her and she could watch it but that all ended when she had to use the ambulance. There was no ipad, no music and no TV. While everyone was trying to do their best it was no child friendly,” Mr Heffernan said.
The first BUMBLEance went on the road in September 2013. Like an ordinary ambulance service it has a first class, professional medical team. But the brightly coloured ambulance is fun friendly.
But the brightly coloured BUMBLEance vehicles are equipped with Wi-Fi, Playstation, iPads, Led TV, colouring books, game consoles, apps DVDs, Neflix and Apple Music and sensory lighting.
Social media can be accessed on board so loved ones can keep in touch and relay messages during journeys.
It is a door to door service eliminating driving traffic and parking concerns for parents.
Each child get s “BEE-BRAVE gift pack and certificate for every heroic child who travels on board BUMBLEance.”
The Heffernan’s own son Liam. 5 made his own final “angel” trip using the the BUMBLEance service in 2014. Both of his parents were with him on that journey.
The BUMBLEance service started off with one vehicle but by the middle of this year should have a fleet of six.
In the first two years of the service it made 622 trips travelling 200,000 km across every single county in Ireland.
It takes sick children to pre and post surgical appointments, pre and post organ transplant journeys, respite and hospice trips, angel trips, specialised appointments and cancer treatments and critical care and inter hospital transfers. The charity is rolling out its Childrens Chemo Can service in March with its first new regional based service being launched.
More than six out of ten journeys are scheduled trips to and from hospitals
Jack Hanlon who was born with a life limiting illness, Pfeiffer Syndrome Type 11 last May used a BUMBLEance on his final journey home when he was almost four months old from Temple Street Children’s Hospital last September. Mamie is pictured above with Jack and his two sisters Kate and Zara (l-r).
His mother Mamie said:”Jack had five life saving surgeries and countless procedures in his four months with us. He spent his whole little life in Temple Street until BUMBLEance brought Jack home for the very first time on an angel trip.
“Jack loved being home. We never seen him smile so much. His big sisters Kate and Zara loved showing him around. BUMBLEance gave us the gift of bringing out little boy home.”
His dad Chris said: “Thank you for bringing Jack Home. It was amazing to finally have our baby boy home for the first time ever, together as a family with two proud sisters, Kate and Zara, so we could pretend life was normal for a little while before he grew his Angel Wings a few days later.
“Such a special gift of memories. We’ve never seen Jack smile so much. The day we brought Jack home on BUMBLEance was without competition the best day of Jack’s life. And the crocheted blanket, BUMBLEance teddy and his BUMBLEance Certificate were a lovely surprise.”
His consultant neonatologist, Dr Michael Boyle wrote a letter of praise to the service following his experience of BUMBLEance.
“I was so unbelievably impressed by the team, the ambulance and the experience in general. Paul and Werner were the drivers, they made our little boy and his father feel like VIP rockstars for the trip and we got to their home they engaged with the two little girls there.
“Showing them around the ambulance and playing with them as we were getting in and out of the ambulance was such a lovely unforced touch,” Dr Boyle said.
The service is provided completely free or charge. It will cost about €891,000 this year to fund two new vehicles and cover the operational costs and salaries. To date is has not received any direct state funding but does get crews and fuel for one of its vehicles from the National Ambulance Service.
BUMBLEance1, the original vehicle is operated with the National Treatment Medicine Programme. The charity has its own driver and has started recruiting new staff for its extension of its service across Ireland.
About 350 children die before their 18th birthday every year in Ireland. There are an estimated 3, 840 children in Ireland living with a life-limiting condition. They have an incurable illness that often requires special care and at times may need palliative care.
For more information on BUMBLEance:https://www.bumbleance.com