My people of the year - grateful Hilary's on-air tribute to Ulster Hospital staff who never gave up on her dangerously ill relative
A Belfast woman has gone on air on a national radio station to nominate the staff of a local hospital as her people of the year after they helped save the life a dangerously ill loved one.
Hilary Lavery also publicly thanked members of her church in east Belfast for their prayers for the relative.
Hilary told Radio 5 Live presenters Anna Foster and Tony Livesey that her relation - whom she doesn't want to name - was given just a one per cent chance of returning home after being rushed to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald earlier this year with a brain infection.
But Hilary told millions of listeners: "Dr Mohammed and the team in Ward 25 didn't give up. They carried on looking after her and, after eight weeks, we walked her out of the hospital.
"Too often we are willing to knock the NHS and we are not as willing to speak up when something actually works."
Yesterday, after taking gifts to the staff, Hilary told the Belfast Telegraph that she had been motivated to contact the radio station because she was so grateful for what the doctors and hospital staff had done for her relation.
She added: "The paramedics who came to take her to hospital were magnificent as well. And when we got to the Ulster the team in A&E were great, too.
They monitored her condition very closely and they found her a bed very quickly."
A number of hospitals here have recently been criticised over lengthy waiting times in their emergency departments, but Hilary said her relative had received constant care and attention at the Ulster.
"And after she was moved into Ward 25, Dr Mohammed was always there for us, and the junior doctors were all available to us as well. They and the nurses kept us fully informed. They were very fastidious," she added.
Hilary said the congregation of Grove Baptist Church on the Beersbridge Road also sustained her and her family with their prayers.
Members from the church, which Hilary's grandparents helped to found over a 100 years ago, were in regular touch and she said she believed their prayers had been crucial.
She added: "They were just fantastic. We know the congregation were praying for us in public in the church and in private in their own homes.
"But they also offered to do little things for us if we needed them. They were like an extended family.
"I was at the hospital so much that I wasn't able to attend church as I usually do every Sunday.
"But I brought the words of the first verse of a hymn - All The Way My Saviour Leads Me - to the ward and put them up beside the hospital bed."
She said the words, and her relative was able to repeat them after her.
Hilary's relative was discharged from the Ulster Hospital two months after she was admitted.
Hilary texted Radio 5 Live's Drive programme after it put out an appeal for listeners to pick their man or woman of the year.
"A producer rang me within minutes and asked me if I would talk on air, and I was delighted to say my piece about the hospital," she explained.
The South Eastern Trust said: "We were delighted to hear of Hilary's praise on national radio.
"Our staff work extremely hard, sometimes under challenging conditions, and recognition such as this gives them a much-needed boost."