Four finalists in running for Sunday Life award
The finalists for our Spirit of Health Award, sponsored by Henry Brothers, have made caring for others their lives’ work.
They are people like children’s palliative care nurse and mum-of-three Deirdre Armstrong, from Downpatrick, who works to comfort young people and their families in the darkest of circumstances.
Deirdre was a paediatric Macmillan nurse for 22 years before retiring in February.
She built up such a bond with the families she helped that she attended the funeral of every child she worked with.
Often the first point of contact for distressed parents, Deirdre has always been there to provide unwavering support when it was needed most.
One of the people who nominated her said: “She has provided this extraordinary care with a humble and kind heart.
“She is my superhero. She deserves recognition as the Spirit of Health for her devotion to sick children for many years.”
Our second finalist is paramedic Trish Brady, who worked with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service throughout the pandemic and who is also the driving force behind the Antrim unit of the St John Ambulance.
The voluntary service recently secured premises for the first time in its 70-year history, largely thanks to the efforts of Trish, its interim manager.
Alongside her day job as a full-time NHS paramedic, she works tirelessly to provide training courses for her St John Ambulance volunteers.
Outside her long hours at work, she has dedicated a great deal of time and effort to her volunteers, going out with crews to ensure they can do their job to the highest standards. She also secured funding to purchase vital IT equipment.
Also in the running for our award is Dr Nigel Lyttle, a consultant neuropsychologist at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital who was nominated by a grateful patient whose life he transformed.
The mother-of-two had lived with a chronic illness for 20 years before coming under the care of Dr Lyttle. After just seven months of treatment at his clinic, she told Sunday Life: “For the first time in 20 years, I’ve found a professional who understands.
“(It’s) like he’s walking in my shoes and on my path, but he has the expertise, knowledge and wisdom to help me to change direction.
“Talking to Nigel is so liberating. I’ve never met a professional who is so knowledgeable yet so down-to-earth, who treats you like you’re their only patient.
“To have someone who understands you better than you understand yourself, it’s just incredible.
“I no longer feel I am living a life where I’m just surviving and trying to get the basics done.”
The person who nominated Dr Lyttle, who has worked at the Royal for 12 years, added: “Everyone should have a Nigel in their life.”
The last finalist in our Spirit of Health category is Templepatrick nurse Lyn Anderson who, like our other nominees, has spent all her life helping others.
The 37-year-old works in a six-bedroom, all-male bungalow, caring for adults with learning disabilities.
While she has two children at home, she kept working nights throughout the worst of the Covid crisis, giving her all to the men under her care.
A friend who nominated the selfless nurse explained: “Lyn worked throughout the pandemic, not once stopping to think of herself. She is always the first to help out. She is the kindest, strongest nurse and never asks for anything in return.”