The family of a west Belfast man who died after he was deemed not fit for a ventilator due to a physical disability said they “will never understand why his life was worth less than that of another”.
Annaleigh Walsh described how the value of her wheelchair-bound uncle Vincent Macklin’s life was judged on his inability to walk.
The 55-year-old, who had suffered injuries in a car accident in 1983 and had been left with brain injuries and paralysis down his left side, passed away in the Mater Hospital on April 9. His funeral took place on Wednesday.
In a coma for 10 months and in hospital just short of two years, his family had helped him walk and talk again.
“My uncle Vincent was injured in a car crash in 1983 at the age of 17 since then has fought so hard and defeated everything that came his way, a true fighter,” she said.
“After his accident he was left in a vegetative state, with my late grandmother, Alice Macklin, being told he would never walk again. He proved them all wrong.
“He was the joker of the family, his smile would light up any room he went into.
“It was amazing to grow up with a family like mine, to see the unbreakable bond that my mother Karen had with my uncle, how her and her three sisters. Deirdre, Martine and Alice, all cared for him up until his last days at home. Watching this throughout my life has taught me so many things about what it is to be a family and to put others first, how to truly love one another and I’m so very grateful to have had such strong women in my life influencing the person I’ve became.
“When we arrived at the hospital last week, my family were told that Vincent was deemed not fit for a ventilator. They judged the value of Vincent’s life based on his ability to walk, unable to see past his wheelchair and they deemed him unworthy of saving and unfortunately did not give him a chance of surviving from the moment he was admitted.
“We are all finding this extremely frustrating and are struggling to come to terms with. Our NHS is simply anaemic, the lack of funding ensured a shortage of ventilators and ICU beds, resulting in someone having to make the difficult decision that our uncle was not deserving of the desperately needed life saving equipment. How someone can deem one life to be more valuable than another, I will simply never understand.
“This is through no fault of the amazing nurses and other staff members of the hospital, we understand difficult decisions must be made, but it should never have got to this. “Our hospitals should have been properly funded and provided with the equipment they desperately need, if they were we might have had a very different story to tell today.
“I can’t express how heartbreaking it is to know that your loved one is sitting in a hospital fighting for their life and you can’t go near them, get the closure you need or even a hug goodbye.
“All we can do now is send a massive thank you to the wonderful, kind-hearted nurse who held his hand as he took his last breath, a true angel who gave us the comfort of knowing Vinty wasn’t exactly on his own in his dying moments.
“It is extremely hard to look at my other family members struggling to deal with the loss, and not even be able to give them a hug, to have a proper funeral or a wake, to take him home to be with us as a family. We cannot mourn this loss together, which as a family is just heartbreaking to go through.”
Belfast Health Trust said it had contacted Mr Macklin’s family “to discuss their specific concerns”.
“The decision to ventilate a patient is taken by a clinician, in line with government guidance, and a number of factors have to be taken into consideration before placing a patient on a ventilator,” the spokesperson said.
“As a health and social care provider, protecting patients in our care is central to our values.
“We are truly sorry for the loss the Macklin family have experienced at this difficult time,” the spokesperson said.
“Losing a family member to Covid-19 is particularly difficult and we have contacted the Macklin family to discuss their specific concerns.”
Annaleigh said her uncle should not have lost his life in such circumstances.
”Our hearts are absolutely broken,” she said. “I can’t begin express the raw pain we all feel. These past two weeks have been an absolute living nightmare.
“If you think that Vincent was disabled and the same thing could not happen to you me, my mummy and my daddy, all healthy people, all contracted coronavirus and were completely wiped off our feet with it. Coronavirus is indiscriminate and could very well come to you next. Please start to take this more seriously.
“Stay at home. Every time someone goes to store for something unnecessary, you risk a life. Every time someone decides they want to see their boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, family, Anyone who does not live in your home, you risk so many lives.
"Please stop taking to social media to complain about how bored you are indoors, how hard it is to not see your mates or how much you just want to go for a pint because quite frankly it’s so insulting to families suffering the loss of a loved one through this time."