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Shocking letter sent to grieving mum referring to her only surviving son as being dead

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 18/04/2015

Joyce Craig at her home with her son Christopher
Joyce Craig at her home with her son Christopher
Nicola Craig
Michael with his mum Joyce Craig
Letter sent to Joyce Craig

A grieving mother has spoken of her shock and heartache after receiving a letter from a health trust incorrectly referring to her only surviving child as the 'late Christopher'.

Joyce Craig from Bangor, who lost her disabled daughter Nicola (26) four years ago and her son Michael (25) from a brain tumour in February, described the mix-up as "horrific".

Joyce (59) opened the letter and said for a fraction of a moment she feared that her youngest son Christopher, who has cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care, had passed away.

Christopher (23) receives respite care in Stewart Memorial House Care Home in Bangor, Co Down.

She had returned from a funeral of a friend early last week and opened the post. At the top of the letter in bold black type it said: 'Ref: The late Mr Christopher Blunden'.

"I just couldn't believe what I was reading," she said. "It was horrifying.

"Just for that fraction of a second you think the worst and panic. I had been away for two days at a funeral and thought they might not have been able to get in contact with me and something had happened."

Joyce, who is divorced, added: "To have lost Michael earlier this year -I'm trying to cope with that - and then to have this letter sent is just heartbreaking. I just rushed round to Stewart Memorial and hugged Christopher."

The trust has issued an "unreserved apology" for the mix-up but Joyce, who was named 2015 Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year, said such mistakes should not happen.

"The first two letters were to do with Michael concerning his death certificate and to then have to open another letter and read that - I was sick to my stomach."

In a statement the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said: "The South Eastern HSC Trust has apologised in person to Mrs Craig, and we will also be writing to her. The mistake was made by a member of administrative staff, and not by staff personally involved in providing care services to this family, who are well aware of the tragic circumstances. However, we fully appreciate the upset and distress which has been caused to Mrs Craig and can only apologise unreservedly."

But Ms Craig said she still has been left incredibly upset by the error. She added: "I don't think this is good enough at all. I emailed them to explain what had happened and that it caused me shock and horror and I wanted to bring it to their attention because I don't want this happening to another person or family.

"I've received an email to say they have asked for a letter of apology to be sent but the damage has already been done. That distress I felt can't be taken away."

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