A HEAVILY pregnant woman has died suddenly of a heart attack -- but doctors were able to save her child.
Marcella Breen Gilliland, from Ballybay, Co Monaghan, died on Tuesday, which was her 39th birthday, at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth.
Doctors at the hospital were able to safely deliver her baby girl as she was almost full term.
She was the first daughter born to Marcella and her husband Andrew, also the parents to two boys, Adam and Mark.
Marcella is believed to have been in the hospital in Drogheda for a routine ante-natal check earlier this week as is normal in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Although no serious abnormality was found, doctors are understood to believe the heart attack was triggered by complications due to her pregnancy.
An internal review of the case will be carried out by the HSE.
Her body was brought to her home in Corfad, Ballybay, last night for a wake, with a funeral to be held later in the week.
Last night her family appealed for privacy to deal with their sudden loss.
A statement released through the HSE read: "The HSE wishes to express its deepest sympathies to the family and is supporting them in every way possible. In respecting their wishes, the HSE has agreed to make no further comment."
Locals in Ballybay yesterday spoke of their shock at Marcella's sudden death which has touched everyone in the small town.
One woman, who did not wish to be named, said she was a wonderful neighbour.
"We don't really know what to say because it was so sudden and just out of the blue," she said.
"It's hard to get your head around this because she was so young and healthy.
"It's just terrible that there are three young children left behind now."
She said Marcella doted on her two sons who were "her world".
Originally from Tipperary, she had been living in the area for some time and was working as a nurse.
She had planned to take at least six months of maternity leave after the birth of her first daughter.
The Irish Independent has also learned that Marcella had made preliminary arrangements to have a professional family portrait taken of their entire family when their new baby had arrived.
On her Facebook page she had listed one of her favourite quotes as: "Enjoy life, it's only a blink."