“Do not think for one second that it cannot happen to you.” Those are the words of Eileen O’Driscoll, a cow attack survivor who has issued a stark reminder to farmers this Farm Safety Week.
An accident on Mother’s Day in March 2015, after returning home from mass, changed the B&B owner’s life forever.
She went to check their suckler herd with her husband, Padraig. When they arrived there, one cow was due to calve.
Eileen had tended to the herd on two occasions by herself earlier that day.
“So, we decided we would bring her back to the shed in case of calving difficulties that she would be inside if she needed veterinary assistance.”
“The very next thing I knew, I was flat on the ground,” she explained in the video.
She told RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide presenter, Damien O’Reilly: “My glasses got broken. Padraig was a bit behind me, and he came running up.”
“The cows had all gathered around and were really angry at this stage. With a stick in one hand, he fought off the herd of cows. He had to roll me down under electric fence wire to get me out to safety.”
“Then he had to drag me another 5 metres to get me behind a bush away from the cows. I had realised I was in trouble, but my biggest thing was I could not turn or look.”
“My glasses were gone, and I had no idea what part of the field I was in or where I was.”
“Unfortunately, we did not have our mobile phones. Padraig had to go home to call the emergency services, which I will be indebted to for the rest of my life.”
“I was alone and terrified and tried to get up. I found a strange sensation in my mouth and discovered it was blood coming from a gash I had received in my forehead. It required fourteen stitches later that evening in Cork University Hospital.”
“If that had happened to Padraig, I would not have been able to lift, drag or pull him. I would have had to lie down beside him and die with him.”
Hospitalisation and recovery
Eileen suffered multiple fractures and Toe Head and Glandore Coastguard airlifted her to Cork University Hospital, where she underwent surgery.
Eileen’s farm accident impacted her B&B business significantly, and she required months of intensive rehabilitation.
“After spending some time there, where I got exceptional care, I returned home, but it was only after coming home that it dawned on me the extent, the change, the accident had made in my life.”
“The worst part for me after coming back from hospital was not being able to walk on my own. At night, I needed two people to put me in and out of bed.”
“Nights were the worst because I would desperately need to get out and I hated calling my family. They would come running.”
“I was fit and active; I was used to climbing gates. All of a sudden, I was lying flat and could not do anything for myself.”
“While they came, they had to put a guard on me; I could not walk without the bodyguard. It was all so much against what I was used to doing.”
“The magical day arrived when I was able to walk again, and I will treasure that memory for the rest of my life. I no longer can go into a field of cattle; there is no way ever that I can risk that again.”
“Life is brilliant now. I appreciate every single day being able to get out of bed on my own, dress on my own, use the bathroom, go walking on my own and do my work on my own,” the cow attack survivor said.
Padraig said: “These are memories that never leave you. The freshly-calved cow is lethal. Were it not for the fact I was so close, it was body parts we would be collecting,” he told O’Reilly.
Today (Monday, July 19th) marks the ninth annual Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK.
The Irish Farmers’ Association and Yellow Wellies UK lead the annual initiative.
The message for this year is: Rethink Safety, which aims to encourage a deeper awareness of everyday risks on farms and the practical steps needed to reduce risk.
Several agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee members, support SFW.