Ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers honoured to support NI Hospice 'angels' who looked after dad
Brendan Rodgers has described the palliative care team that looked after his father Malachy at the end of his life as "angels".
The former Liverpool FC manager was speaking in Belfast as he confirmed he had agreed to be an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Hospice and Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.
The 43-year-old Carnlough man was checking out progress on work at the charity's Somerton Road site, where a new £13m dementia-friendly unit is due to open in May.
"I am very privileged and honoured to be asked to come and help the hospice," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Rodgers' father died from cancer in 2011 at the age of 59.
"I had first-hand experience with my father in the latter stages of his life, he needed that care and I always said the people that work around it and helped him were angels," he said.
"When I was asked to help the hospice I was only too happy to be able to do that.
"It is going to be one of the leading hospice units in Europe and I am delighted to be involved."
Rodgers' first engagement as ambassador is to run in the all-star Hospice Heroes relay team in the Belfast City Marathon on May 2.
His fiancée Charlotte Searle (33), a former Liverpool FC travel organiser, will be joining him.
"Charlotte and I train up to five or six times a week so we are really looking forward to it, and for sure we will do some extra training to make sure we don't cramp up," he said. Among the guests for his hospice visit yesterday was former Glentoran footballer Mark Glendinning (45).
Like Rodgers, he knows how important palliative care is as his wife Mandy died from breast cancer in 2014.
"People who do this work are a special breed," he said.
"The hospice was amazing for us as a family.
"They couldn't do enough for us and the aftercare is brilliant." Mark's son Reece (20), a worker at Bombardier and a footballer for Linfield, agreed.
"They really looked after us all," he said.
The hospice cares for 3,000 adults and children with life-limiting illnesses each year, with around 90% of care delivered in the community.
Among the hospice staff working in north Belfast is nurse specialist Jenny Robinson (30) from Carrickfergus.
"My last placement at university was an elective placement in Northern Ireland Hospice and I just loved the care they provided," she said.
"I thought it was a totally different way of nursing from my other placements, so I came here."
She added: "The pure satisfaction of the job... you go in and help people at the most difficult time of their life.
"It is a real privilege to do that."
Jenny also said she had learned so much about life from the men and women she had cared for.
"Lots of people reminisce about what they have and haven't done," she said.
"Family becomes so important at that time and I see families become stronger.
"Many people wish they had spent more time with their family and friends, or some regret not seeing the world more, taking more holidays or doing a bucket list, but generally people don't talk about what they haven't done, they mainly want to manage their time now with their family."