Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman's anguish at facing Mother's Day with daughter still fighting for life after horror attack

By Claire O'Boyle

As flowers, chocolates and pretty pink cards fill the shops, for one Belfast woman, Mother's Day can't be over quickly enough.

Mum-of-five Carol Corr is grieving for one of her children - her daughter, who is still clinging to life.

Exactly 16 weeks ago yesterday, Carol experienced the stuff of nightmares when she saw her daughter, Joleen, hours after she had been beaten so badly she was barely recognisable.

By the time the young mum made it to hospital doctors feared she wouldn't survive the day.

And while, four months on, Joleen is still breathing, her heartbroken mum is resigned to the fact the girl she brought up is gone forever.

"At the start we kept hoping for a miracle," says Carol, as she clings to a handwritten keepsake Joleen gave her for Mother's Day last year.

"Every day at the hospital I'd ask, is there any change? Is she getting better? But the longer it goes on, reality is setting in and I'm starting to get my head around the fact my Joleen isn't coming back.

"I've spoken to a psychologist about everything that's going on because it's extremely traumatic for me and my other kids. I'm grieving for her. She's here, but she's gone. It's very difficult to come to terms with."

Carol, who is mum also to Cherie (23), Jim (20), Chloe (12), and nine-year-old Christine, has been at her daughter's side every day since the attack at the start of December. "I'd only seen Joleen the day before," says Carol, from west Belfast.

"She was living down in Downpatrick but she'd spent about a week up with me at the end of November with her wee boy. It was her birthday so we had a lovely family day out, she loved it."

And on the day before the family's lives were turned upside down, Joleen picked up a puppy to take home as a Christmas gift for her two-year-old son.

"She rang me from the bus back to Downpatrick," recalls Carol. "She had the pup, a wee Jack Russell, and her son with her.

"She was absolutely over the moon with it and she said it was like having a new baby. She was in good form.

"Later that night, I got a text from her asking about the numbers of a local lottery we'd both bought tickets for, but I told her we hadn't got the numbers. And I never heard from her again."

The following day, the first Friday in December, Carol got the horrifying news that changed her life.

"Everything has been a nightmare since then," she says. "Every Friday I seem to go into a panic because it all comes back.

"And because Joleen's state isn't getting any better we just can't see how we're going to be able to move forward.

"If there was going to be a miracle, it would have happened already."

Joleen is now on the waiting list to move from the Royal Victoria to Musgrave Hospital, where it is expected her condition will remain the same.

"My other kids are fantastic, and yesterday my youngest, Christine, left me a wee note saying she knew I was missing Joleen, but that she wanted me to have a nice Mother's Day," says Carol.

"To be honest I couldn't see it far enough, but I've got to be strong for the kids, especially my two youngest. They've been fantastic although it's very hard for them too so I've got to keep on going."

Not only will Mother's Day be a struggle for Carol, the fact Joleen is missing out on her own big day with her son is heartbreaking too.

"She was a fantastic wee mummy," says Carol.

"She absolutely adored her son and we should have been all celebrating as a family. But we don't even know whether to bring him to see her or not because it's very confusing and upsetting for him.

"We've told him she's asleep, but if he sees her eyes open, then it's harder to explain. He'll think she's awake, but his mummy isn't really there."

Michael O'Connor has been remanded in custody for attempted murder. He is due to appear at Downpatrick Magistrates Court in April.

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