A family has praised the compassionate health staff who made sure their parents could hold hands as they passed away.
Barney and Blossom (Sarah) McGlinchey died just six minutes apart at Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital.
It is understood Barney was diagnosed with coronavirus on December 31 and Blossom on January 2 despite “huge personal sacrifices” by the family to protect the ‘healthy and active pensioners’ from the virus.
Following a 999 call on January 7 the couple were admitted to hospital. Blossom, 78, was being treated for the condition in ICU while 81-year-old Barney was being treated at Altnagelvin’s COVID ward.
After it became clear they may soon lose their fight, the couple’s daughter Lynne told the Derry Journal a consultant got in touch to ask if they could bring them together.
She said: “Mummy was close to death and in line with the guidance one person could visit. That was my older sister Libby. Five minutes later I got a call to say dad was very close to death and that the person visiting mum could visit dad.
“The consultant quickly phoned us back and said, ‘Look, we want to bring your parents together because both of them are very close to death. How do you as a family feel about that?'”
Lynne says the family’s worst fear was that their parents may die apart and so they prayed that wouldn’t happen.
“We wanted them to be together,” Lynne added.
“It was an assessed risk because dad was so poorly they were worried he could die on his way to ICU to be with mum. But he didn’t. He held in. He was waiting on her.
“They were brought together in ICU with my sister Libby and they passed away holding hands six minutes apart. My dad died at 16.55 and my mum died at 17.01 [on January 20]. They were going home and we believe they were together on their final earthly journey, holding hands, holding rosary beads. They passed away together.
“The nurses and medical staff showed great emotion. The emotion that those professionals must feel and take home with them, it’s not something you can switch off from.”
Barney, who has been described a big football fan and real story teller, and Blossom are said to have been devoted to their family, who are now grieving their loss.
The Greysteel couple’s daughter Lynne added: “They were people of great faith, a gift they passed on to us as a family. We believe it is that gift of faith that has given us the strength to get through this at this time.
“We know that the wider community, not just our family and friends, said their prayers. We want to thank them for their prayers, their thoughts and their kindness.”
Now they have launched a fundraiser to show their gratitude to the amazing staff who made sure those prayers were answered.
In a statement on their JustGiving page, the McGlinchey family said: “In loving memory of Mammy and Daddy.
“During this heartbreaking time our family have been indebted to the staff of Altnagelvin. They have provided comfort to our parents and the wider family. Endless phone calls and questions was never a problem.
“The treatment and care was outstanding and despite huge challenges they brought mummy and daddy together for their final earthly journey. For this we will be eternally grateful.”
St Mary’s Faughanvale GAC paid tribute to the couple on Facebook.
A statement read: “The committee and members of St Mary’s Faughanvale GAA club are saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Mr Barney & Mrs Sarah (Blossom) McGlinchey.”
They shared their heartfelt sympathies with their family, adding: “The couple were highly regarded in our community, Barney was a loyal supporter of not only our teams, but also our club initiatives, including the ‘Winter Walks’ at John McLaughlin Park.”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk