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Mother's joy as first bricks of new £13m hospice laid

By Victoria O'Hara

The first bricks of the new Northern Ireland Hospice have been laid, marking a milestone in the £13m development.

Due to be completed at the end of 2015, the new building will revolutionise care in Northern Ireland. Since work began in March, the basement of the new adult hospice has been installed, foundations have been laid and the steel structure erected. Yesterday, however, witnessed the first brick-laying at the site.

Once opened it will provide end-of-life care, as well as care for those with complex needs, including those suffering from heart disease, and severe respiratory and neurological illnesses.

Among the supporters gathered for the event was Priscilla Roche from Carrickfergus, whose son Jonathan spent the last few weeks of his life in the hospice last December.

Jonathan, who was born with a congenital heart disease, died three months before his 19th birthday. Priscilla described the care he received at the temporary accommodation in Whiteabbey as "dignified and excellent".

"When we were told he was going to have a bed in the hospice I had no idea what to expect. I always associated it with a slightly sad experience, but for us the minute we walked through the doors with Jonathan, who we had been on a journey with, it was amazing," she said.

"He had been nursed at home, nursed at hospital. But we found ourselves in a place of support and comfort. We entered into an area where Jonathan ended his life with great dignity and his wishes met."

She said the team were so accommodating that nothing was impossible for them, and they would bend over backwards to help.

"One of his dying wishes was to have a Christmas at home. He didn't get home, but they organised a Christmas dinner at the hospital. His cousins flew in from America and Canada and we had a family dinner for him. It was a place of positivity."

NI Hospice chief executive, Professor Dame Judith Hill, said: "We would never have reached this stage without our invaluable fundraisers and I would like to say a massive thank you to all of our supporters, from individuals and charitable trusts to corporate sponsors and the Government."

Story so far

The new adult hospice in Belfast will be open and operational in late 2015. Plans for the new hospice at Somerton Road will include improved patient rooms, better facilities for families and a new research and education wing. It will provide 18 specialist palliative care beds. It needs to raise £2 million to complete the rebuild. To support the project visit www.nihospice.org

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