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Widow's funding plea for 'amazing' hospice that cared for dying husband

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 29/01/2016

Work continues at the Somerton Road site
Work continues at the Somerton Road site
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Bernadette Murray, whose husband Liam was cared for by the NI Hospice, and her children Amy and Liam

A mother of twins has thanked the "invaluable" team at the NI Hospice for caring for her husband in his final days before his death from a brain tumour.

Bernadette Murray, from west Belfast, said the hospice had offered great comfort to Liam, who was first diagnosed aged 19, before being told the disease was terminal six-and-a-half years ago.

The mother spoke during a visit to the building site of the new £13m Northern Ireland Adult Hospice in north Belfast with her nine-year-old children Amy and Liam.

When it is finished, the 18-bed centre will be the first purpose-built, dementia-friendly hospice in the UK and Ireland.

Bosses hope the project will be completed by the spring.

However, another £1.5m is required to finish the centre, the aim of which is to ensure that people from right across the province have access to tailored palliative care.

Mrs Murray said it was vital to support a service that gave such help to her and her husband, who was 31 when he died.

"A couple of times the tumour changed - he had surgery and radiotherapy but never thought it would be terminal," she said. "Then, about six-and-a-half years ago, he got a terminal diagnosis.

"The hospice stepped in and helped me care for him at home. About a week before he died he went into hospital, and the last three days of his life he spent in the hospice. The care that he received was amazing.

"It was great to be able to become a wife again. They took over the care part, and we were able to spend time with Liam as a family during his last few days.

"It is a vital part of the community. Without the hospice I don't know what we would have done. The last few days in the hospice, I didn't have to be a carer - just his wife. The kids were only three at the time.

"When you have someone terminally ill at home and you have children, and you are trying to remain normal for your family and kids, that service is irreplaceable."

The NI Hospice helps more than 3,000 adults every year and also provides home-from-home care for patients and families.

Among guests touring the building yesterday were First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, along with Health Minister Simon Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton said he could not commit to extra funding for the building "at this moment in time", but he hoped to find a way to do so going forward.

"It is a project that we have already backed and one that we would like to back if possible in the future," he added

Mrs Foster said the staff at the hospice were a "testament to the skill-set" in Northern Ireland.

And Mr McGuinness added: "This visionary project will support our future generations, and I am both humbled and inspired to see such progress and determination by all the people engaged with the hospice."

To find out more about the NI Hospice's project and how you can support it, visit www.nihospice.org

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