Volcanic eruption on Whakaari Island

New Zealand Volcano“I found someone to mind the baby, because no matter how many drills you do, no drill had ever thrown a 3-month baby being breast-fed into the mix.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Baby Ruadhán is too young to know what a volcano is. He wasn’t aware anything unusual had happened on December 9th when a volcano erupted on Whakaari Island (White Island) in New Zealand, killing several holiday makers and leaving others with life-changing injuries. But even at 3 months of age, baby Ruadhán played a small but significant role in the aftermath of the tragedy.

On that day, Ruadhán’s mum Dr Deirdre Seoighe cut her maternity leave short and rushed into work at Waikato Hospital, taking him along with her. The facility is a Level One trauma centre and has seen it all, Dr Seoighe says, and was well prepared for emergencies. They had thought of (almost) everything:

“I found someone to mind the baby, because no matter how many drills you do, no drill had ever thrown a 3-month baby being breast-fed into the mix.”

Burns specialist Deirdre got on about her job, saving lives and limbs and setting up severely burned patients for what she calls the “long road” ahead. The little fella meanwhile, took up a position in the hospital command centre, got about HIS business of being cute and adorable, and providing the medical staff with a welcome distraction from the pain around them.

He was up there and had no end of people ready and willing to go up there and cuddle him and take him out of his cot and soothe him. It was kind of nice for the staff. For all that there wasn’t a sense of panic, there’s a lot of stress and there’s a lot of injured patients coming in. And we’re human and we feel for these people and we feel for the pain and suffering, so it’s nice to be able to pick up a small baby who’s oblivious to it all and give him a little cuddle. He was like a mascot for the night.”

A graduate of Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons, Dr Deirdre Seoighe is currently living and working in New Zealand with her husband and four children. She told Ryan today that the Irish medical diaspora in New Zealand made her very proud; she says they are “a credit to us”. Dr Seoighe says everyone in the hospital pulled together to help each other out with the increased workload following the White Island disaster. Maria Duignan, one of the Irish junior doctors working at the same hospital as Dr Seoighe even offered to babysit on her day off, so Deirdre could make it to the operating theatre.

“It’s been a kind of, everyone doing any job they’re able to do, even if it’s not strictly speaking in your job description.

Dr Deirdre Seoighe talks more about working in a trauma hospital in the wake of a huge event, how the process of skin donations works in burns treatment and coming home to Rathcoole after Christmas in the full interview here.

Ruth Kennedy

© The Listener 2019

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