NEWS FEATURE: Vital Bus Service Is ‘Better Than Any Therapy’

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Total Cleaning NEW INSERT’s Fergus Dennehy travelled on the Kerry Cork Health Link Bus this week and spoke to people for whom the service is vital for many reasons…


The Kerry Cork Health Link Bus.

MONDAY morning.

It’s 7.45am, the air is cold and the eyes are sleepy as I wait near McDonald’s in Rathass for the arrival of a service that, until recently, I had not known existed.

This service is The Kerry Cancer Support Group’s Kerry Cork Health Link Bus.

The Tralee based bus is a free service that takes those that are suffering from cancer and might not have any other way of getting to their treatment, up to Cork University Hospital (CUH) and back again.

The service is open to anyone that needs to avail of it and operates from Monday to Friday.

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It leaves Tralee and collects the service users in Castlemaine, Fossa, Killorglin, Killarney, Milltown and Glenflesk.

The people at Kerry Cancer Support Group allowed access to the bus to chat to people who use the service about how important it is to them.

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Eileen Finn, Mary O’Connor, Mary Foley and Mary O’Sullivan outside the Kerry/Cork Health Link Bus.

Marie Egan, from Tralee, who is currently three weeks into her six week treatment, is the first person that I sit down to talk with about her experience.

“It’s a brilliant service. It provides transport for those who mightn’t have any other way of getting up there every single day,” she said.

She touches on the social aspect of the bus, which, as I talk to more people, I realise is almost the most important aspect that the service is offering.

“You get to meet other people and it’s really a great support. They might be more advanced in their treatment stages and they are always on hand to offer you little tips about this or that. It’s very much a silver lining in a bleak situation,” Marie continued.

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The social side of the service is something that very much stuck with me as I sit and listen to the laughter and what can only be described as ‘banter’ fills the air.

I sit down with Anne Galvin at the front of the bus next after she cheerfully offers me and all the other passengers some chewing gum.

“Mentally, this bus saved me,” said Anne. “I found it very trying at the start. On the bus though, we were all helping each other out and we were all laughing and smiling before we knew it. It was better than any therapy,” Anne says with a smile on her face.

“I look forward to getting the bus in the mornings and meeting up with everybody. Everyone is there to help one another. You’ll always have the highs and the lows, but every time that we land [in CUH], there’s smiles all round. Sure, I still keep in touch with the girls that I’ve been up with. It’d be a massive loss for everybody if it [the bus] was not there anymore.”

We reach CUH as the bus is stopped right outside the doors to the Oncology Unit around 10.30am. Everyone gets off and is given tea and biscuits by those in the voluntary tea bar that is run there.

I take this opportunity to talk to one of the men that has been through it all with his passengers – the bus driver Mike O’Keeffe, who shares the responsibilities with another driver.

“It [driving the bus] has benefits if you’re doing it for at least a week at a time. You get to know the people and build a relationship with them,” he said.

He agrees with me when I say that if a regular passenger succumbs to illness it must be like losing a friend.

On the journey home I reflect on what has been an eye-opening experience in this quiet time. The social aspect and support network that stems from the bus is the thing that has stuck with me.

They all agreed that having someone there that you can to talk about anything or everything helps them to get outside their own heads for a while and forget for a time that they have this ‘disease’.

In that little way alone, ‘The Kerry Cork Health Link Bus’ is a vital resource and one which will be hopefully around into the distant future, thanks to the generosity of the people of Kerry who have donated and fundraised for the service.

For any more information on the service, you can find it on the Kerry Cancer Support Website by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can telephone at 066-7195560.

One Comment

  1. Gillian Wharton says:

    A wonderful service. People I know who has used it over the years also spoke about the social aspect of it and the support, empathy and understanding between the service users. One man told me that he used to have his brother drive him up before he started using the bus. Sometimes after treatment he would like to discuss it and talk about people he met at the hospital. He said his brother was often uncomfortable talking about cancer but on the bus there was no problem discussing it and he felt much more at ease. So not only is it a vital mode of transport, it is also a crucial support group to those going through their treatment. I wish them all the every best, especially those who use it. Long may it continue to provide this much needed service. None of us know when we may need it ourselves.