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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland woman who lost parents tells of pain at not being able to say a real farewell

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Christopher Vallely (79), who was known as Arty, and his wife Isobel (77), died within 12 hours of each other in the same room at the Mater Hospital in Belfast

Christopher Vallely (79), who was known as Arty, and his wife Isobel (77), died within 12 hours of each other in the same room at the Mater Hospital in Belfast

The Mater Hospital in Belfast

The Mater Hospital in Belfast

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Christopher Vallely (79), who was known as Arty, and his wife Isobel (77), died within 12 hours of each other in the same room at the Mater Hospital in Belfast

The daughter of a west Belfast couple who died within hours of each other in hospital after contracting Covid-19 has spoken of her family's heartache at not being able to give her parents a proper send-off.

Christopher Vallely (79), who was known as Arty, and his wife Isobel (77) died 12 hours apart in the same room at the Mater Hospital in Belfast at the weekend.

Their distraught daughter Fiona said her family was stunned at the sudden loss of both parents, who had been married for 53 years.

She also spoke of her sorrow at being unable to give her mother and father "the proper send-off that they both absolutely deserve".

"My dad is getting cremated because that was his wish, and my mum's wish was to be buried," she said.

"It'll be two separate [events], and it's going to be hard.

"We were hoping to have a lovely church service for mum with all of her friends and family.

Please, please, please everybody, please follow the public guidelines, do everything you can to protect yourself and your families because this is only going to get worse Fiona Vallely

"And for my dad we were going to have a big party because he had such a zest for life."

Ms Vallely also urged the public to heed the government's advice on social distancing.

"Please, please, please everybody, please follow the public guidelines, do everything you can to protect yourself and your families because this is only going to get worse," she told the BBC.

Mr Vallely had been taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital more than a week ago, and tested positive for Covid-19 before being transferred to the Mater, a now specialist hospital for coronavirus.

He had been suffering from lung cancer.

His wife was taken to the Mater on Thursday, and died on Saturday. Her husband died in the same room that she had, just hours later. She had suffered a stroke six months ago.

I was very, very grateful (to the staff) that they let us do that under the circumstances, and we had to wear the protective gear and everything, because I know a lot of families haven't had that chance Fiona Vallely

Fiona said her parents' previous health problems meant they were unable to win the battle against Covid-19.

She added: "They both had underlying health issues.

"My dad was never going to fight terminal cancer, but my mum fought back, from six months ago, a stroke and all her other illnesses, but this, they both couldn't fight this illness, so that shows how this is a very, very serious illness."

Ms Vallely said it brought great comfort to her that she had been able to say goodbye to both her parents, who are from Iris Mews off the Falls Road.

"I was very, very grateful (to the staff) that they let us do that under the circumstances, and we had to wear the protective gear and everything, because I know a lot of families haven't had that chance," she said.

They were amazing and they would have done anything for anybody. They were fantastic people and they did not deserve to go this way Fiona Vallely

"We would like to think they were conscious and could hear us."

Ms Vallely praised the staff at the hospital and said they were doing an "amazing job and putting their lives at risk".

Paying an emotional tribute to her parents on behalf of herself and her brothers Mark and Chris, Fiona described them as "fantastic".

"They were amazing," she said. "And they would have done anything for anybody. They were fantastic people and they did not deserve to go this way."

Last week the heartbroken daughter of Northern Ireland's seventh Covid-19 victim told the Belfast Telegraph how her mother died not knowing that her beloved brother had also passed away.

Carol Palmer's mum Linda Wilson (64), who was originally from Greenisland, succumbed to the virus on Wednesday, March 25, after being admitted to hospital on Mothering Sunday.

But while she was fighting for her life in Belfast's Mater Hospital her children opted not to tell her that their uncle Graham Campbell, who was in his 60s, had suffered a fatal heart attack at work on Sunday. Mr Graham was buried at Roselawn Cemetery on Friday.

Mrs Palmer also said she will have to attend her mother's funeral in protective clothing.

Belfast Telegraph