Coronavirus: Family share story of love as hospice faces crisis

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image captionKate and Paddy Sloan have been together for 35 years

In this world where families send their love through glass divides and locked doors, due to coronavirus, a virtual hug has to be good enough.

Now a family from Northern Ireland are sharing their story, in a bid to boost emergency funds for Marie Curie.

It is one of the biggest charities caring for terminally-ill patients in Northern Ireland.

But it has said it is deeply concerned about the impact coronavirus restrictions will have on its fundraising efforts.

The toughest part

Kate Sloan, 64, has cancer and is currently in the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast.

She and her husband, Paddy, from Loughinisland, County Down, have been together for 35 years.

Coronavirus has been the toughest part of their hospice journey, said Paddy.

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image captionKate Sloan's family reached out to her through glass on Mother's Day

When coronavirus meant their children and grandchildren would be unable to hug Kate on Mother’s Day, they figured out a way to be there for her – no matter what.

"They just want to see their mummy and nanny, however, they know that what they're doing by distancing themselves is vital to the health of Kate and other patients," he said.

But on Mother's Day, they made "an amazing effort" to make it special.

'Part of the family'

"Our son, Aidan, and his wife brought their four children down to see their nanny – and although it was looking through a window holding up a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ sign, it most definitely helped make the day that much easier.

"Our daughter, Roisin, also arrived with a little bag of essentials, waving and smiling through the window, and even that little bit of interaction put a big smile on Kate’s face," he said.

"It’s difficult, and with present circumstances I know that not being able to hug their mum, or just sit at her bedside and hold her hand, is hard on them but they are glad the facilities at the hospice have enabled me to stay with her and be here for her."

Mr Sloan said Marie Curie had become "an extension of our family" and were there not only for Kate, but for all of them.

"Due to her illness, Kate is unable to eat or speak, but that hasn’t stopped her personality shining through and the care from the Marie Curie nurses has been so good.

"As I’m able to stay with Kate overnight there is no need for me to leave her side, which is the only place I want to be."

'Devastating loss of income'

The network of Marie Curie hospices and community nurses rely on donations to cover the £200,000-a-week running costs.

But its ability to generate this money has been seriously compromised by the pandemic.

It is backing an urgent appeal to the chancellor for financial support.

"We are facing a devastating loss of income," said Ciara Gallagher, head of partnerships and philanthropy.

image captionMarie Curie is one of the biggest charities caring for terminally ill patients in Northern Ireland

She said the charity has had to make "tough decisions locally" to postpone and cancel a number of fundraising events.

"We estimate this will be a loss of approximately £350,000 from these events alone," she added.