Elderly Donegal Couple escape house fire only to face hospital A&E ordeal

An elderly husband and wife have spoken of the loss of their home due to a fire and the ‘cruel’ conditions they faced while waiting for hours on end for medical attention after escaping the blaze.

Speaking to Donegal Daily Hazel and Charles Clarke, both in their 70s, spoke of how they were woken up by a fire alarm as flames engulfed their bungalow in Culdaff earlier this month. 

The pair were awoken at 4am by a fire alarm and ran from the building where the flames had already spread.  

Hazel, who is an author, escaped unharmed but Charles “suffered serious burns” after going back inside to try and rescue the couple’s pet dog Lucy, who unfortunately did not survive the fire. 

The couple described having to wait in Letterkenny Emergency Department for 24 hours “covered in soot”. Hazel, who is a former nurse, said she had to beg for medical attention for her husband saying that doctors “didn’t understand” that he had suffered severe burns. 

“My husband just lay there, hour after hour, in pain and blistering.” she said adding that if he had received medical attention sooner the damage would have been “much less”. 

Eventually a decision was made to transfer Charles to Galway University Hospital some four and a half hours drive away. 

Hazel said that this was tantamount to ​​”cruelty” as her husband is undergoing treatment for lung cancer and was left “lying on a trolley all day long” prior to the transfer decision. 

She expressed her frustration that Charles has been sent all the way to Galway saying that there is a “very good burns unit at Altnagelvin Hospital” which she described as being only 20 mins from the couple’s home. 

The couple are currently in search of a rental property with Hazel saying that they are “homeless”.  

Charles will receive specialised skin graft treatment this week while Hazel is staying with the couple’s son Stuart who has appealed locally for help in locating a suitable property in the Culdaff area for his displaced parents.

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