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Belfast man's campaign calls for NHS heroes to get medal for sacrifice during coronavirus crisis


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Philip McGarry with his wife Lisa and daughter Scarlett (4)

Philip McGarry with his wife Lisa and daughter Scarlett (4)

The Elizabeth Cross

The Elizabeth Cross

Philip McGarry with his wife Lisa and daughter Scarlett (4)

A terminally ill south Belfast man has called for NHS workers losing their lives amid the coronavirus pandemic to be posthumously awarded for their sacrifice.

Philip McGarry (53), who was born here but has lived in Wales since 1990, has witnessed first-hand the work healthcare staff put into their patients after he was diagnosed with two rare forms of cancer last year.

The operations controller was diagnosed with maxillofacial carcinoma in June and underwent a 14-hour procedure before chemotherapy, but was not expected to survive to Christmas.

However, after making it through to the New Year with his wife and young daughter, a melanoma was removed from one of Philip's lungs in February.

He is now waiting for his next round of chemotherapy.

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The Elizabeth Cross

The Elizabeth Cross

The Elizabeth Cross

Despite receiving palliative care, Philip says he does not fear death and is now focusing on his wife Lisa, their daughter Scarlett (4) and achieving his desire to see those sacrificing their lives in the National Health Service honoured as the battle against Covid-19 rages on.

Philip's ultimate dream is to see those doctors and nurses receive a form of the Elizabeth Cross, which is given to the next of kin of British Armed Forces members who have been killed in action.

He calls it the Elizabeth Medal.

"Like most people in the country I was shocked and saddened by the number of deaths within the ranks of the NHS," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"These people, many from overseas, are giving their lives selflessly in the line of duty.

"It struck me that if they were in the military on campaign defending our freedoms, and interests abroad, or indeed at home, they would probably receive a medal.

"It is the case that the police service and indeed the fire service receive gallantry medals, and we have both the George Cross and Elizabeth Cross for civilians.

"However, I felt that any award of this nature should be unique. From those thoughts sprung the idea of the Elizabeth Medal.

"I put the idea on Facebook and it grew from there. People have suggested other fields of services: lorry drivers, care workers, retail assistants, etc."

Hoping that some form of recognition will be handed out to workers who have passed away due to coronavirus, Philip also wants to see those working on the front line awarded for their monumental efforts.

Two of his consultants have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and Philip and his family have been self-isolating due to his poor health.

"My cancer has meant that my immune system has been low for the best part of a year, therefore I have been restricting my movements prior to Covid-19 spreading as it has," he explained.

"My concern is that while we all appreciate the current situation, especially for those of us who have weakened immune systems, we are nowhere near able to know or determine whether those who have had the disease will still carry the virus in the future and thus run a risk of continuing to spread the disease to the vulnerable much further down the line."

Describing the healthcare workers who have supported him throughout his treatment as "incredible", Philip said they have been on his mind throughout the coronavirus crisis.

"You can be in the darkest of places mentally and those guys can lift you up in a heartbeat," he said.

"Dying of cancer, for some of us, is a very long road and the team that surround you on that journey are incredible.

"Covid-19 is swift, but like cancer it is unforgiving for some.

"The care and compassion that the nursing staff - and I include the orderlies, the cleaning staff and hospital volunteers - naturally give is awe-inspiring."

Belfast Telegraph