Belfast Telegraph

Teen saved by roadside care backs first NI emergency helicopter

By Claire McNeilly

A 'miracle' teenager who almost died after sustaining a major brain injury in a car crash has said he would be dead if he hadn't been treated at the scene before he was rushed to hospital.

Odhran McKenna (18) - a talented member of St John's GAA club in west Belfast - was severely hurt when his car left the road and hit a tree in his native Crumlin on February 26 last year.

Although his devastated parents, Michael and Sonia, were initially told to fear the worst, Odhran - who has an identical twin called CJ and an older brother, Peter (21) - made a miraculous initial recovery in just over a week.

But the St Mary's Grammar pupil said he puts his survival down solely to the rapid response vehicle and the specific skills of the doctor and paramedics who treated him at the scene.

That's why the young sportsman attended a special event at Radar NI in Belfast yesterday in preparation for the arrival of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (Hems) in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Odhran - whose remarkable recovery saw him captain the winning team in the 2016 Ulster Schools Hurling Cup final - said he owed his life to Dr Jonathan Dawson and paramedics Mark Anderson and Karl Bloomer.

"I can't remember anything about the accident," he said.

"When I woke up in hospital I didn't know where I was.

"I spent two weeks at the Royal and then a week at Musgrave learning how to walk again.

"Several specialists have told me that if I hadn't been treated so quickly at the scene by the doctor and two paramedics, I would've been dead."

His devastated dad Michael (49), a firefighter, told how he and midwife Sonia (46) were warned they could lose their beloved son.

"Odhran crashed at 5pm; around midnight we were told to prepare for the worst," he recalled.

"They didn't think there was much hope because of the severity of the injuries but, just eight days later, he was sitting up in bed, eating toast.

"It was unbelievable."

Dr Dawson said he was surprised that Odhran pulled through, given the extent of his injuries.

"It was very obvious from the scene that Odhran was critically unwell and had suffered a traumatic brain injury.

"Unless he got the right treatment very quickly he would have ended up dead, disabled or in a nursing home," he added.

Doctors, paramedics, fire crews, police officers, mountain rescue and coast guards were at yesterday's event, organised by Delta 7, The Doc John Hinds HEMS Committee, set up and named after the popular motorcycling medic's tragic death.

The 35-year-old, who was one of Ireland's 'flying doctors', was killed while providing medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session in Dublin on July 4, 2015. Dr Hinds, a consultant anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital, was committed to the establishment of an appropriately trained doctor-paramedic HEMS in Northern Ireland.

The committee - formed at the request of John's partner, Dr Janet Acheson, and the Hinds family - is a group of pre-hospital doctors and paramedics who aim to make his vision a reality.

Yesterday, Dr Acheson said it was imperative to follow the doctor/paramedic model in order to provide a world-class service that "increases a person's survival rate by 25-40%".

"It is that model that saves the most lives and brains, effectively bringing the hospital resuscitation room to the patient at the roadside or farm or factory," she said.

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