Irish doctor in New Zealand comes off maternity leave to treat volcano victims

Dr Deirdre Seoighe brought her three month old son to hospital so she could work

Efforts to recover the bodies of some of those killed in the volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand on Monday are ongoing. Photograph: AP

Efforts to recover the bodies of some of those killed in the volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand on Monday are ongoing. Photograph: AP


Irish doctor Deirdre Seoighe was on maternity leave with her three-month-old baby Ruadhán when New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupted on Monday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 30.

Within hours the burns specialist was in scrubs and treating victims of the volcano, many of whom had suffered severe injuries as a result of the eruption.

Dr Seoighe is originally from Dublin and graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in 2003.

She won a fellowship to 2015 to practice at New Zealand’s National Burns Centre which is based at the Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

She was attending singing lessons for two of her four children, when news of the eruption on the tourist island off the coast of North Island came through.

Of the 47 people on the island, 15 were killed and a further 30 were badly injured.

As the region’s lead burns specialist, Dr Seoighe felt she would be needed in the Waikato Hospital so she brought her baby with her.

“My first set of calls were information-gathering, and my next set of calls were childcare-arranging,” she told the New Zealand website Stuff.

A local babysitter stepped in to mind her other three children as her husband, who is also a doctor, was on an emergency call.

“A local teenager called Lucy, who was a total hero, she was out with her friends and she said, yeah, no problem, come pick me up.”

She then asked staff in the hospital to look after Ruadhán and inform her when he needed breastfeeding. Then she got to work.

“He’s the perfect baby for the occasion. He’s pretty chilled. He was loving the fact that he was hugged and cuddled the whole night,” she told the website.

“Everyone heard the news and went to the emergency department to be of service. People don’t have to be told. They just arrived.

“Everyone has come in on days off. People have given up private operating lists.”

She has been working round the clock from Monday when the first casualties arrived by helicopter from the volcanic island, only returning home on Thursday.

“My elderly neighbours come and pick my kids up from my house at quarter to seven in the morning and walk them down to school,” she said.

“When I got home there was a box of meals left outside my door with meals for the week. ... Staff are kind of doing that for each other all around the hospital.

“When someone places their relative in your care and walks away that’s a huge trust and I guess that’s what gets us through. Along with the good results and community support.

“As a non-New Zealander I am very proud of New Zealand’s response and how New Zealand has coped as country and as people.”