Thousands raised in memory of young mum Laura Burns after sudden death
The heartbroken family of a young Antrim mum who died this week have raised thousands of pounds for the intensive care unit that treated her and the children's charity that supports her baby son, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Laura Burns (32) was in bed with one-year-old Lorcan in the early hours of Sunday morning when she developed a severe migraine, her family said.
Tragically, the former Ballymena Academy pupil lost consciousness and her heart stopped beating.
Despite the efforts of staff at Antrim Area Hospital, where Laura was a nursing sister and ward manager, her condition deteriorated.
Laura's family took the decision to turn off her life support on Monday.
Large numbers of colleagues and friends are expected to attend her funeral today, with co-workers planning a guard of honour.
Her husband Keelan (29), who is also a member of staff at the hospital, said there had been an "outpouring of grief" at work.
"Laura was a beautiful, strong, compassionate, caring person," he said.
"She always put me and Lorcan before herself.
"On the night she took ill I was at my brother's house, and before I left I told her I loved her and gave her a kiss goodbye.
"She suffered from very debilitating migraines but wasn't complaining of headaches before I left.
"She rang her dad at 1.45am and said she had a migraine, and asked if he could come and take Lorcan.
"He found her unresponsive and tried to resuscitate her until the paramedics arrived. They worked with her for about an hour, they got a rhythm and got her to resus and found a heartbeat."
Sadly, Laura suffered significant brain damage and her condition deteriorated rapidly.
Her brother Andrew Brooker, who was rushing back from Australia to be at her bedside, said goodbye on the phone as their father held it to Laura's ear.
"Her death is unexplained and has to go to a coroner," Keelan added.
"We think the migraine could have caused pain which got so severe that she passed out and caused her to go into cardiac arrest, then she was starved of oxygen, which led to the brain damage."
Keelan said he was currently "on autopilot" after the loss of his wife of four years.
"She was mine and Lorcan's absolute world," he said.
"She idolised Lorcan. My mother passed away when I was six, and now my wee lad will grow up without a mum as well.
"When Lorcan was born we were given the challenge of dealing with his quite severe cerebral palsy with dystonia.
"He can't do any of the tasks of daily living by himself.
"Laura was a very calming influence - she took his diagnosis on the chin."
Just last Friday Keelan and Laura were excitedly finalising plans for a specially-adapted house designed around Lorcan's needs.
He is now uncertain whether it will go ahead.
He said the family had received "unbelievable" support from Laura's colleagues at Antrim Area Hospital, where she had worked for nine years and had been due to take charge of a new unit.
"Everyone is absolutely devastated, they have said the hospital is in mourning," he added.
"They've opened a book of condolence and have a picture of Laura in the hospital chapel. There will be a nursing guard of honour at the service, which is a lovely gesture."
Keelan also thanked the community for supporting a Justgiving page set up in Laura's memory, which by last night had raised nearly £6,000.
The sum will be split between the Buddy Bear Trust, which supports children with cerebral palsy and other motor disorders and has helped little Lorcan, and Antrim Area Hospital ICU.
"This will be Laura's legacy," Keelan added.
"The staff at Antrim ICU treated us with such respect, and Lorcan goes to the school run by the Buddy Bear Trust once a week.
"The family and I are astounded by the support. Laura will be up in Heaven thinking: 'All that fuss for me!'"
Speaking on behalf of their parents John and Sheila Brooker, Andrew (34) described his sister as a "very dedicated mum".
"From the point where they turned off the life support Laura had 22 minutes - the first 12 of that was the drugs, but the last 10 she was trying to support herself," he revealed.
"She was a lovely, caring person. She was incredibly popular at the hospital and known for being dedicated to her job. It is heartbreaking that Lorcan will grow up without his mum. My mum, dad and Keelan are so full of praise for how the nursing staff cared for Laura.
"We would like to thank the community for their support, and everyone who donated. We are expecting a large turnout at the service, and we are asking people to wear bright colours. We want it to be a celebration, not a mourning."
Laura's funeral Mass will take place at noon today in St Comgall's Church in Antrim.
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/laura-burns.