A Co Londonderry woman with a rare genetic condition has raised more than £4,000 for Marie Curie after raffling a jigsaw she completed whilst shielding during lockdown.
Angela Kirkpatrick (29) from Maghera is diagnosed with Apert syndrome, a genetic condition which affects bone cells and growth, leaving her with significant mobility and respiratory challenges.
As a result, she has been required to remain locked down at home like so many other vulnerable people in Northern Ireland due to coronavirus.
For sister Michelle (40) and her husband Declan (40) who both live with her in the same household, Angela having to be isolated as a result of her health condition has been a difficult adjustment in all of their lives.
“Everything in Angela’s life is about timekeeping and routine. Whenever this lockdown happened, that routine went out the window,” said Michelle.
“It has impacted her massively. She is in complete lockdown in the house. The type of person she is, she wouldn’t be the one to be sitting in the corner at a party. She is really outgoing. She misses her friends that she was previously going and meeting.
“She normally has a part time job on a Monday. On a Wednesday she goes to her open doors class in the evening and also on a Friday. Her being used to getting out of the house those three days is a big thing in her life.
“She would be high risk as a result of her Apert syndrome which means she cannot really breathe through her nose correctly. Any issues therefore with her breathing as a result of contracting Covid would be a real problem.”
Trying to find a way to occupy Angela’s attention during the difficult days of lock down, Michelle’s husband Declan bought her a jigsaw of New York’s Times Square.
What initially started as a way to keep her busy soon became so much more, when it was decided they would raffle the finished project several weeks ago for a charity close to Angela’s heart.
“The first day she only did about ten pieces. She explained she wasn’t getting on too well with it and was struggling,” added Michelle.
“We then suggested to her when it was finished that we could raffle it and she made the suggestion to do it for Marie Curie.
“Her mother Alice passed away back in February 2016 from cancer, so that was a big motivation for her. Suddenly she then got into working on it for six or seven hours a day and she built the whole thing herself.
“It was brilliant because it gave her something to focus on and kept her occupied and passed the day.
“After she completed it, her dad Mick put a nice frame on and we put it up on Facebook for auction.
“Some people gave £50, there were others giving £10 donations. I knew after a short period of time it was going to be a great success. Every few minutes there was another email coming through saying money had been donated.
“We could have probably let it run another week more than we did and the demand was there.”
Eventually raising a total of £4,210 through the auction of the 500-piece completed jigsaw, Angela finally got the opportunity to deliver the massive cheque to the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast on 5 June.
“Angela was so proud it made her feel as if she was really worth something,” said Michelle.
“It was very touching and did her confidence the world of good. It kept her occupied and kept her focused. Angela never complains about anything even with her condition. She just takes it in her stride and she deserves credit for what she has faced.
“I think the auction has done so well because people are thinking about those like Angela during these times. Anyone who has heard the story says it brings a smile to their face.”