Family sponsor bed on Children’s Ward in memory of Maura McColgan

Pat and Maura McColgan, with sons Sean, Conor and Ruairi, daughter in laws Caroline and Leona and their grandchildren
Pat and Maura McColgan, with sons Sean, Conor and Ruairi, daughter in laws Caroline and Leona and their grandchildren

The opportunity to sponsor a bed in Altnagelvin’s Children’s Ward ‘meant everything’ to one Derry family, whose devoted wife and mother worked on the ward for more than a decade.

Maura McColgan sadly passed away in May last year and her family said she would have been ‘honoured’ to know there was a permanent reminder of her on the ward.

Pat and Maura McColgan

Pat and Maura McColgan

The Altnagelvin Parents’ Support Group launched a campaign earlier this month to raise money for more than 20 specialist ‘glide away’ beds for the parents of sick children to rest on.

More than £20,000 was raised thanks to generous donations from local businesses, organisations and families in just two days.

And when the McColgan family became aware of the appeal, they made plans to sponsor a bed and have a ‘permanent testimony’ to Maura on the ward.

Her husband Pat, a former printer with the ‘Derry Journal,’ said Maura enjoyed every minute of working in the hospital.

“She started working there over 10 years ago. She always wanted to work with children, that was her thing, and she always regretted not going on to do nursing.”

He said that Maura had a ‘natural affinity’ for children and worked as a classroom assistant in Belmont before going to work in the hospital.

Maura, a native of the Creggan Estate, was married to Pat for 41 years and they have three sons Sean, Conor and Ruairi and seven grandchildren.

Conor said his mum loved ‘making a difference’ while she was working with sick children on the ward.

“She felt a part of all the tragedy and the good outcomes that occurred on that ward. It is not just time you dedicate to a job like that, but your emotions as well.”

Conor remembers his parents having a conversation about work and how Maura’s job made a difference.

“Daddy said he was a printer who produced newspapers that would be tomorrow’s chip shop wrapping, but mum’s job really made a difference. She would go into a room and a poorly child and those parents would smile at her.”

Maura always connected with the children with life limiting illnesses and their families.

Pat said this was obvious to all the family when they were in her presence and met former patients.

“I can remember this one time we were walking down the Strand Road when this woman came out of a cafe and said to Maura ‘come on in, she’s out’.

There was this child who was paraplegic and couldn’t talk, but the excitement on her face when she recognised Maura was something else.”

Maura worked in the Children’s Ward until November 2017, when she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

“Mammy was a very positive person and didn’t want to know about the prognosis. She couldn’t believe she was sick, because she was always such an active person and she wanted to fight it,” Conor maintained.

Sadly, the tumours spread to Maura’s brain and she died in May, 2018. Today (Friday)would have been her birthday.

Maura was once an active member of Galliagh Women’s Group and after her death one of the other women used items of Maura’s clothes to create memory teddies for her grandchildren.

Her former work uniform was one of the items used to create the teddies.

Pat said the bed they have sponsored in Maura’s memory will be ‘something special’.

“People thought highly of her on the ward and I know she is badly missed. Many parents of sick children took time out to come to the wake and funeral to let us know what Maura had done for them while they were in the hospital.

Pat did a collection outside Homebase, where he currently works, to collect the funds and said the ‘generosity of people was unbelievable’.

He raised more than £1,000 in four days and further funds were donated by the Magnet Bar.

Conor and his brother Sean said that Maura was a selfless, altruistic person and never looked for recognition. However, they say she would be ‘honoured’ to have a bed on the ward in her memory and it would have meant a lot to her.