Derry mammy’s return to education a last promise to terminally ill daughter

Derry woman Bronagh Parke has graduated from North West Regional College (NWRC) and is now studying Nursing at University of Ulster (UU) after making a promise to her terminally ill daughter.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 10:20 am

Bronagh’s daughter Sofia was only two years old when she passed away and her brave mammy said the medical care and love that was given to baby Sofia during her short life is what inspired her to do the Access Adult Learning course in NWRC. The 29 year old promised Sofia during the last moments of her life that she would give back to all the nursing and medical teams who looked after her.

Bronagh said: “I loved doing my Access course. When I finished my GCSEs at school I went back to do my A-Levels, but I didn’t finish them.

“I gave birth to my daughter Sofia when I was 21, she was born terminally ill with only one part of her heart developed. I remember being handed that wee baby and taking her home. She was my world, so much so that I kept asking myself - is it normal to love your baby this much?

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Bronagh Parke pictured with baby Sofia.

“Becoming Sofia’s mammy meant I had to grow up very quickly. Sofia needed many medical interventions at Altnagelvin Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, and in Birmingham. I wanted to look after Sofia at home, so I insisted on being trained in tube feeding, oxygen, and the saturation monitor.

“I was never told a time frame for Sofia’s life, and I was oblivious to the fact that one day I’d lose her, I never believed it.”

Little Sofia passed away two weeks after her second birthday in 2016.

“Sofia died in my arms, and as she did, I made her a promise that I would give back to all the people who had looked after and cared for her,” said Bronagh. “The medical teams inspired me every day, they treated Sofia like she was their own child.

Bronagh Parke will be one of more than 800 students to be acknowledged as Graduates from the College's Class of 2021. The graduation ceremony, which will be streamed live on YouTube, takes place at the Millennium Forum on May 25 at 12 p.m.

“The time after she died was very difficult, but I had great support from my family and Sofia’s Daddy.

“When I was ready, they encouraged me to keep that promise I made to Sofia. I didn’t have any A-Levels so the Access course at NWRC was my next step.

“Completing that course and getting into nursing was a great achievement for me. It prepared me so well for university. I was so lucky to have lecturers around me who supported me and my mammy Tara, who looks after my other daughter Harper when I’m at college.

“I’d say to anyone who didn’t finish their education for whatever reason to take the plunge, it was the best thing I did.”

Bronagh will be one of more than 800 students to be acknowledged as NWRC’s Graduates from the College’s Class of 2021. The graduation ceremony, which will be streamed live on YouTube, takes place at the Millennium Forum on May 25 at 12 p.m.

During the event, Honorary Awards will be presented to George Fleming of Fleming Agri Products for Contribution services to Skills and Employment, and Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk- Özgul of Elemental Software for Contribution services to Social Inclusion. The event MC is BBC TV and Weather presenter Barra Best.

Graduates of Art & Design, Business, Computing, Construction, Engineering and Science, Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy, Early Years, Health & Social Care, Hospitality, Tourism, Sport, Media, Music, and Performing Arts will gather at the Millennium Forum with friends and family to mark the successful completion of courses undertaken at the College’s Strand Road, Limavady and Strabane Campuses.
Principal and Chief Executive of NWRC, Leo Murphy said: “We are delighted to be gathering in person for our graduation ceremony that will celebrate the success of the class of 2021. Every one of our graduates has worked extremely hard, studying, and continuing to learn during a global pandemic. The entire college community is proud of all their success and achievements.

“This is a day that many have been looking forward to, sharing in the company of fellow classmates, lecturers, and of course their family and friends who have supported them every step of the way. I encourage each of our graduates to make the most of the opportunities they have in the future.”

The college’s graduation ceremony will be live-streamed on YouTube – search NWRC College.