Over 250 local people with a terminal illness have been cared for by Marie Curie Cancer nurses in a single year in the western region, the Journal has learned.
The figures were released as the charity’s ‘City Friends’ branch thanked big hearted Derry people as it emerged they raised more than the whole of Belfast in support of the nursing services.
The City Friends branch have now collected a total of £6,870 from their recent Daffodil Appeal, compared to the £4,000 raised in Belfast.
The money raised locally will go towards supporting Marie Curie nurses in the city as they help local families and carers tend to people with terminal illnesses in their own homes in the final stages of their life.
During the 2012/13 year, there were a total of 28 nurses who looked after 256 patients in the western region.
Together, the nurses cared for people for a total of 14,975 hours. The number of people they looked after was up 46 (around 20 per cent) on the previous year.
The City Friends branch was co-founded in Derry three years ago by local friends Fiona Wallace and Joan Doherty, who last month received an MBE at Buckingham Palace.
Mrs Doherty, who is currently treasurer of the branch, said the two friends had been planning to do something for charity, and were introduced to the local Marie Curie Area Manager by former Ilex Chief Executive Aideen McGinley at a lunch event in Strabane a few years back.
“We decided this was it, we wanted to set up a branch,” Mrs Doherty said. “We decided to call ourselves City Friends because we are friends of everybody, we are not religious, not political.
“The nurses are just like angels coming into the home. They are very, very special, very gentle, they look after anybody that is terminally ill. It is not just people with cancer.”
The local Marie Curie Cancer branch works alongside the Foyle Hospice and take care to arrange their fundraising events at different times to the Hospice, Mrs Doherty said.
“The people in this town are so generous,” Mrs Doherty said. “We have static boxes and sometimes we have to lift them every second week they are so full.
“Then we also have people asking for money to be donated in lieu of flowers at graves. People also do fundraising events.
“We raised £6,870 in the Daffodil Appeal while Belfast raised just £4,000. We also have a lot of great volunteers who come to collect for us and there are six of us on the committee. We all work hard.”
One of the local committee members is teenager Jennifer Nicholson, an A-Level student from St Cecilia’s College.
“She is just so enthusiastic, it is fantastic, and this is something that will stick with her,” Mrs Doherty said.
She added that the money raised locally had tangible benefits for families who needed help.
“We have more nurses on the ground now. It takes £20 an hour to fund one nursing post and the more money that can be raised, the more people that can be helped. We are always looking for more nurses.”
Mrs Doherty spoke of one man who was terminally ill and the Marie Curie nurses came and tended to him at night to ensure his wife, who was his carer, could get a night’s rest knowing he was receiving expert care.
“She could go to sleep knowing that he was in good hands and that if anything goes wrong they will waken you. That’s a great relief for people,” Mrs Doherty said.
On June 18th, Marie Curie will host a Stroll On the Walls leaving from the Guildhall at 7pm. Registration is £5 per person and people with children, youngsters in prams and even dogs are all welcome to take part.