Staff at Altnagelvin Hospital have been singled out for praise after helping a terminally ill woman marry the love of her life from her hospital bed.
Jacqueline Millward passed away just an hour and a half after marrying her partner of 20 years, Martin McCullagh. The 57-years-old from County Tyrone was still wearing her wedding dress when she died.
Jacqueline’s stepdaughter, Shannon McCullagh, says she now wants to thank the staff in Ward 4A in Altnagelvin for transforming a small room into an intimate wedding venue. The wedding took place on February 27th.
She said staff there ensured that her stepmother’s dying wish was granted and she now wants to highlight the efforts of the Western Trust workers.
“My step-mum had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in October, and her health seemed to be improving rather than deteriorating over the next months,” explained Shannon,
“Unfortunately, as the wedding date approached, her health took a dramatic turn and she was admitted into hospital on Monday, February 22nd, with pneumonia. It soon became obvious that she wouldn’t be able to attend the Registry Office in Omagh for her wedding.
“The hospital staff were beyond amazing, and transformed a neighbouring room on the ward into a full wedding venue, equipped with seats for guests, wedding decorations, flowers, lights, signs and a beautiful flower arch (supplied by a florist from the maternity ward).
“Even the hospital cook went out to get decorations and everyone was involved in full force decorating for the wedding. There was even one member of staff - my stepmother’s nurse - who came in on her day off to help decorate and organise the day and the cook made cakes and sandwiches for guests, all at the hospital’s own expense.”
Shannon said family members feared that her stepmother, Jacqueline, would not live long enough for the wedding to take place but that staff nursed her through her final hours and made it possible.
“An hour before the wedding, we didn’t think my stepmum was going to make it to finally get married to the love of her life. Amazingly, however, the staff helped her hold on for antwo extra hours, where she finally was able to marry her partner for life, unfortunately, not in her beautiful wedding venue, but at her bedside.”
Shannon said she will never forget the hospital staff who made her stepmother’s final hours so beautiful.
“I would publicly like to thank the staff of Ward 4 for going so much above and beyond their duties. They were truly amazing, and were able to help my step-mum hang on and live to become Mrs McCullagh. They kept Jacqueline in good spirits, and looked after all the wedding guests - around 30 in total - including many who had flown in from England.”
Jaqueline Millward (nee Murray) was originally from London, and had lived in Plumbridge, Co Tyrone for 15 years with her partner, Martin McCullagh. Her family were from Omagh and Donegal.
Shannon says her stepmother Jacqueline and her father Martin, spent many happy years together before Jacqueline became ill.
“My father was a cameraman in the film industry and took his beloved Jaqui all over the world with the film sets, taking in music videos, films and commercials,” Shannon recalled.
She once again thanked the hospital staff who she described as a great example of the kind of people who work in hospitals.
She added: “I really want to give this hospital some credit. The NHS is always being slated, but I think this is a truly a positive and inspiring story.”