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West Belfast man Kieran Monaghan was a devoted husband and father, who embarked on his final journey at just 51 years old.

His wife, Máire Thompson, shares their poignant story of how Northern Ireland Hospice was a beacon of light ensuring Kieran’s passing was peaceful and dignified.

Kieran was a loving husband, thoughtful, kind, and considerate. He was such a great dad, so proud of our two children, Harry and Gabrielle.

We first met in our twenties. Kieran was always fun to be around, he was witty and mischievous. He had a zest for life, very outgoing but down to earth. He loved walking the dogs on Divis Mountain near where we live. He was even out with the dogs just days before he died on the mountain he loved so much.

Kieran had been to A&E several times with stomach-ache, but in-depth tests revealed he had stage 4 terminal Pancreatic Cancer. We were in shock, but from day one Kieran was brave and pragmatic about the diagnosis, saying ‘it is what it is’.

Kieran had a difficult time while in hospital, with sepsis, blood transfusions, chemo, and radiography, and he really didn’t want to go back there. So, in February 2023 he went to Hospice, just for a week at first, for pain management.

Initially, we thought Hospice would be a gloom and doom place where people went to die. However, Kieran’s Hospice stays were much more positive, and it became an unexpected oasis of comfort amidst the storm. It was still a difficult time, but it would have been a hundred times worse without the support of Hospice.

Kieran went into Hospice again in late March for six weeks. The care team kept us fully informed about what was happening. This helped Kieran to accept that he was going to die. But he refused to just give up, and he felt inspired by Harry and Gabrielle’s bravery.

At Hospice, we could come and go whenever it suited, as we were keen to try and keep things as normal as possible. It became a home-from-home for us. Gabrielle had her own study table set up in Hospice as she was completing her A-Levels, as well as being busy competing for Antrim Ladies GAA.

Harry was running his own dog training business, following in his father’s footsteps with his love of dogs.

The atmosphere in the Hospice’s IPU ward is so different to the hospital, so much more relaxed, a haven of warmth and compassion. We had pizzas delivered at all hours when we were visiting, and Hospice was very welcoming to Kieran’s many friends and family.

His mummy also visited every day to still spoil her only son with fresh smelly pyjamas and fluffed towels. We have 12 dogs and Marlo
the dachshund loved visiting. That really helped to lift Kieran’s spirits.

Our consultant, Dr. Emma Lundy was so kind, with a great bedside manner. She made such a massive difference to us. She takes the time to build a relationship and get to know people, including what they want from their care. In fact, the whole care staff were kind, and funny and Kieran loved to see them all, from Ash in the auxiliary staff to Tana and Lynsey in the nursing team. They were good craic and we genuinely felt lucky to have secured a place in Hospice.

By the end, Kieran needed four syringe drivers for his pain. It was Kieran’s wish to die at home. It would have been easy for the doctors and Specialist Community Nursing Team to have insisted on keeping him in Hospice. But they made it happen because they knew how important it was to him. So, at the end he was at peace, surrounded by the love of family and our twelve dogs. [Kieran died at home on 17th May 2023]

We don’t associate Hospice with trauma, as those last six weeks in Hospice were calm. It was a time of memories and acceptance, not angst. It gave Kieran quality of life in his last few weeks and we even had some moments of fun.

We are so thankful to Hospice for Kieran’s care that we wanted to give something back and so far we have raised £16,000 for Hospice through a DIY Hospice Walk, so that other families like ours can continue to receive Hospice’s amazing care.

Help us continue to create moments of comfort for local families like Kieran's by making a much-needed donation today below.

Creating Moments of Comfort

Watch the video to hear how our specialist Palliative Care Team ensured that Kieran’s stay in Hospice gave him and his family special moments of comfort together, including our Community Team caring for Kieran as he got his dying wish to be at home in his last days.
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