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Nurse details harrowing life or death rescues

Wednesday, 19th February, 2020 4:50pm

“My favourite place to be is sitting at the kitchen table with my mother and the family, chatting and just having a cup of tea together.”

Those are the words of brave Cork nurse Aoife Ní Mhurchú who, for the last four years, has been doing crucial work with humanitarian medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Aoife’s story was featured last night in TG4’s new documentary ‘An Bhearna Bhaoil’ which featured harrowing footage of her time spent aboard migrant rescue ship the Aquarius on the Mediterranean Sea in 2018.

During her nine months at sea, Aoife provided lifesaving medical care for hundreds of people fleeing persecution in the Middle East and Africa.

“We would come across rubber boats containing 100, 120, or even up to 160 people in trouble. This could be 30, 50 or even 100 miles off the Libyan coast. These people cannot swim. They’re not wearing life jackets. They don’t have food or water,” Aoife said.

She went on to describe one especially tragic day in the winter of 2018 when the crew came upon a rubber boat which was almost empty.

Aoife said: “There were people in the water and there were people scattered all around in the sea. A lot of them were unconscious and not breathing. A lot of people needed to be resuscitated.

“We didn’t have the numbers to cope. Even the journalists had to assist us. We were resuscitating people beside dead bodies. That tragic day we managed to save 99 lives. It’s estimated that we lost 36 people.”

After returning from the Mediterranean, Aoife travelled to Afghanistan to continue her work, and is currently on a mission in Libya where a civil war has been raging since 2011.

In preparation for her latest mission, Aoife studied rarely seen footage sent from detainees within Libyan detention camps.

She also spoke with her uncle Fionnbarra who spent 40 years working in Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania as a missionary priest.

It is estimated that 500,000 migrants are currently trapped in Libya, which is currently one of the most restricted countries in the world.

In the documentary, the Cork nurse explains in detail the difficulties connected with the work that she does and the sacrifice of leaving home.

“I hate putting that worry on my family, especially my mam. I know it upsets her,” Aoife said.

“This work is very important to me. I know I’m able to do it, but also I feel very sad when I see what’s going on in the world and what’s happening to vulnerable people,” she concluded.

‘An Bhearna Bhaoil’ aired yesterday on TG4 and is now available to watch on TG4 player.

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