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US visitor thankful for air-raising experience

AN American has credited Irish Community Air Ambulance and National Ambulance Service personnel for saving his life after he suffered a heart attack while on holiday in North Clare.
Michael Almada lives near Cape Cod but has been visiting Ireland for the last 20 years, and always spends some time in Kilfenora when in this country.
Prior to Monday, September 6, the 68-year-old walked at least six miles a day and regularly ran and cycled.
However on that morning a heart attack struck. After an ambulance was summoned paramedics assessed Michael and found he was suffering from a serious blockage.
The Irish Community Air Ambulance was alerted and they landed in a nearby field. He was brought to the Cardiac Cath Lab at the University of Limerick and an operation was completed within 45 minutes of taking off from Kilfenora.
The trip by HEMS Air Ambulance from Kilfenora to UHL took approximately 20 minutes. Michael’s wife followed by car in a journey that took an hour and ten minutes.
Because of his level of fitness and health, Michael says he was very much taken by surprise on the morning of September 6.
“It was kind of an ordinary morning, nothing unusual. I got up feeling alright, a bit of indigestion, but it’s not that uncommon for me. I thought maybe it’s something we had last night. I went in to shower and when I was in the shower the blockage must have come on.
“The pain got quite strong very quickly, I knew immediately it was something cardiac, but I had no idea what it might entail.
“We had no mental preparation for it, I’m not a typical candidate, I do a lot of exercise and keep the weight down. It’s never been an issue in regular medical check-ups at home, it was never raised as a possibility for me.”
The emergency services were called and an ambulance was there about 30 minutes later, before the decision was made to bring him to hospital by helicopter.
“It was kind of amazing. I thought the ambulance folk would do an evaluation, but I just thought they’d sort of toss you in the back and away you’d go.
“They were here a good while and decided it was not wise to attempt the trip over land. They decided to summon the air ambulance, we didn’t know anything about it, didn’t know it existed.
“They were here some time after 11am and around 11.35 we left the neighbour’s field here, went down to Limerick in about 20 minutes or so and right into the surgery for the procedure.”
While he was in hospital far quicker than would have been the case going by road, it still felt like a long time to Michael.
“I was lying flat but could see out the window, I could pick out landmarks and I was saying, ‘is that all we’ve gone’! Every ten seconds was an eternity to me, but it was a pretty quick trip.”
He is full of praise for the two ambulance crews who dealt with him.
“The co-ordination between them and the ground ambulance and then with the cath lab at University Hospital Limerick was fantastic. They were both totally professional and calm, it was amazing. They deal with this stuff every day, I can’t say I was very calm, but they were tremendous.”
Being transported by Air Ambulance in America would be massively expensive, as would hospital bills.
“You’d have thousands and thousands in bills. Insurance would cover some part of it, but you’d be left with a 20% co-pay. The same with the hospital, you could have a cost of tens of thousands for even just a few days in the hospital. It’d quickly exceed your insurance allowances.”
He has spent the last few weeks recovering, and hopes to be well enough to fly home next week.
“They don’t want you to fly for a month. We had pre-booked our return before we came for the first week of October and it should be fine. Something could come up, but so far so good, it looks positive.”
He is a very regular visitor to Kilfenora for quite a long time. “We’ve been coming to Ireland for 20 years. When we were still working it’d be three or four weeks if we were lucky, we’d spend a couple of weeks in one part of the country and a couple of weeks in another part.
“We got acquainted with the Kilfenora area in 2004 when we stayed with a local family here and had brought our own family along with us. We kind of made some bonds here, and wherever we’re going we spend a little bit of time here.”
He says that the support from local people over the last few weeks has been phenomenal. “We’ve had such great support and great help from people here. It’s great, they are great folks.”
The Irish Community Air Ambulance is on track to complete more than 500 missions this year and is predicting a 10% increase since 2020.
Incidents range from road traffic collisions, cardiac arrests and farming accidents, to equestrian incidents and falls from heights.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.
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