Brave Keith first to fly in 'Bumbleance' for cancer battle
He lost his mother to leukaemia and is now battling the disease himself.
However, but making history as the first child to be flown to hospital for treatment in the Air Bumbleance has put a smile on Keith Gallagher's face.
Keith (12) left Knock Airport yesterday afternoon with his dad David on board the special helicopter dedicated to transporting seriously ill children.
The young hurler, from Kilmovee, Co Mayo, will spend the next few days in Crumlin Children's Hospital, where he is receiving chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Since his diagnosis in April, Keith is nearly three months into his three-year treatment and has maintained a positive outlook.
His dad told of their devastation on hearing the diagnosis.
"You can't imagine how I felt," said the father-of-two. "That's the second time I've gone through this."
Keith's mum Jacinta (44) died six years ago after losing her battle with leukaemia. Keith and his sister Chloe were six and seven-years-old respectively at the time.
The family have struggled to come to terms with their loss, but receive great support from relatives and their community.
"I just got on with it. We had to," David said.
Little did he think that, six years later, he would be back in the same situation.
"Keith was pale and not well and I knew straight away there was something wrong with him and brought him to the doctor," he said.
"They knew straight away at the local hospital what it was, but Keith is very positive for a child his age. Chloe is coping unbelievably well too."
The Gallaghers were put in touch with the Saoirse Foundation in Crumlin, which provides the Bumbleance children's ambulance.
David described it as a new lease of life and said Keith was collected at his door in Mayo and brought to his appointments in Crumlin.
"It's mighty. They pick us up at the door and drop us off at the door and it's been unbelievable," he said. "There's no way you could say enough kind words about them."
Tony and Mary Heffernan founded the foundation in memory of their daughter Saoirse following her death from Batten Disease at the age of five. The couple also lost a son, Liam, to the disease.
"I always said I'd love to see the Bumbleance service take off and now it has," said Tony.
The charity was approached by Ryan Hanrahan, a commercial helicopter pilot, who offered his services.
The Saoirse Foundation has provided five child-friendly ambulances and hopes to launch its sixth next week.
The Heffernans hope yesterday's airlift and a regular Air Bumbleance will complement the service.