Health

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Day Lewis: My mother's peaceful death inspired for hospice campaign

IT'S a long way from Hollywood – but for actor Daniel Day Lewis it is the field of dreams. The Oscar winner is resolute that a picturesque coastal site in rural Wicklow will be the setting for the first hospice in the county, providing a peaceful haven for people who are terminally ill.

The 56-year-old star, who has a family home in Annamoe, is patron of the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, which is now "within a whisker" of raising the €3m needed to get the HSE on board to provide the rest of the investment needed to allow the 12-bed building to go ahead.

A further €3m is needed to start construction and the HSE would also take over the operating costs.

"It a place of great natural beauty, a peaceful place, generously donated by the Columban Sisters," said Day Lewis during a visit to the site outside Wicklow town yesterday.

His support for the campaign is a moving tribute to the care his mother Jill received in a similar 'cottage hospital' in England in the last months of her life before her death in 2009 from a brain tumour.

"A lot of important things in one's life have to begin with a personal connection of some kind. When I was contacted by Evanne Cahill, chairwoman of the Wicklow hospice fund, my mother had recently passed away.

"It was an awful time but it was transformed into a very rich time for myself and my sister because of the beautiful environment."

His mother could have had hospice care at home but she felt so safe and comfortable in the community hospital that she chose to stay there.

The actor explained: "It can be a precious time, but without the quality of the environment the less consoling it is. It has to be a hospice built in the most suitable and happy place.

"It is not just about seeing them through to the end. Of all the options, this is the most beautiful place."

Daniel Day-Lewis at the site of the proposed hospice
Daniel Day-Lewis with Kieran McLoughlin, CEO of the American Ireland Fund, and Evanne Cahill

He described hospice workers as "unique people" who get involved not just with the patients but also with the families.

"There is no way you can praise them too highly."

Earlier this year, Day Lewis secured props from the set of the film 'Lincoln' to auction for the hospice before going on to win his third Oscar for his portrayal of the US president.

He paid tribute to chairwoman Evanne Cahill and said it was also important that the American Ireland Fund was now behind the project .

He urged the HSE to not delay a decision any longer and said it was time for it to "join hands with us" and move to get the hospice built.

"It should have been built by 2012 but there are always delays. It should be built by 2014 and they (the HSE) have made their commitment to partnership. We fully expect them to honour that commitment."

Day Lewis said the people of Wicklow deserved the hospice and that they had "earned it and won't be denied it".

"I say that on behalf of all other counties also in need of a hospice. It is a natural thing to do for one's community."

He said he had a lot of good fortune in his life and considered being able to help the campaign part of that.

Evanne Cahill said they expected a decision from the HSE shortly.

"At the moment we have just 3.5 palliative-care nurses to cover the whole county."

Around 100 people in Wicklow need hospice care annually but cannot access it, so some have to go to Dublin for a coveted place.

A HSE spokeswoman said it supported the development of a hospice in Wicklow and was looking at several options, including the site at Magheramore.

The HSE will need additional revenue funding and is looking at identifying "existing resources" which could be deployed there.

"A rigorous process of evaluation is nearing completion and the consultative committee would hope to be in a position to complete its work by the end of September 2013," she added.

Irish Independent

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