Sunday 17 December 2017

Terminally ill woman died in wedding dress moments after marrying soulmate from hospital bed

Martin McCullagh and Jacqueline McCullagh were together for 20 years
Martin McCullagh and Jacqueline McCullagh were together for 20 years

Cate McCurry

A terminally-ill woman who married the love of her life from her hospital bed died just over an hour later, still in her wedding dress.

Jacqueline (nee Murray) McCullagh, who suffered from cancer, died at Londonderry's Altnagelvin hospital last month.

Martin McCullagh and Jacqueline McCullagh were together for 20 years
Martin McCullagh and Jacqueline McCullagh were together for 20 years

The 57-year-old fulfilled her dying wish of marrying her soulmate and partner of 20 years, Martin McCullagh from Plumbridge.

The mother's ashes were scattered at the grave of her son who was murdered in England in January 2003.

Staff at the Derry hospital have been praised for their efforts to transform a consulting room into an intimate chapel decorated with flowers.

Mr McCullagh (58) described it as a surreal and chaotic day as staff rushed to ensure they had a happy wedding.

"Getting married was something that we were always going to do for our 60th birthday but then Jacqui was diagnosed with small cell and lung cancer in November and we brought the wedding forward," he said.

"She came out of hospital just before Christmas after a very bad chemotherapy experience but she was recovering and things were going well. We even thought we would book the wedding six weeks from then as we thought we had that time as she was doing so well, but unfortunately a week before she died she was suffering from chest pain."

Jacqueline was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and after a few days she showed signs of recovery.

The pair were to travel to Omagh registrar office for their wedding, but things took a turn for the worse.

Mr McCullagh added: "Staff tried as much as they could to keep her going but they realised the day before she died that things were getting bad.

"We spoke to the registrar and she agreed to marry us in the hospital. The staff on Ward 4 were amazing. They had friends who donated flowers and they took over one of the consulting rooms and made it into a chapel for us on the Saturday morning.

"The room was stunning and they got cake and sandwiches and staff were coming in on their days off - they really made a massive effort.

"Unfortunately, Jacqui was so weak that she couldn't make it into that room so we got married at her bedside. She shouted, 'I do' at the top of her voice -her strength left me absolutely shocked, she was a really strong woman.

"The registrar was in tears and she forgot to tell me to put the ring on, it was chaos.

"After we got married we had a beautiful kiss and then the medical staff said she was beginning to suffer badly and that we would have to let her go, so she passed away with me holding her hand. It was so peaceful after all the pain and agony."

Mr McCullagh described it as a "surreal" day that he will never forget.

He said it was always Jacqui's wish to get married but that the couple had been living as husband and wife for many years.

"Once we started planning it (the wedding) it was the focus of our lives," he added.

The heartbroken husband suffered from spine cancer four years ago. He described how Jacqueline nursed him back to health after he spent nine months recovering in Birmingham.

"She came over to England and nursed and cooked me dinner and looked after me every day for a long time and I was doing the same for her," he said.

He said that following her diagnosis and treatment there was a glimmer of hope she would live longer.

"She was a fighter but unfortunately she died very quickly.

"She looked happy when she passed away and when we brought her home for the wake she still looked great and happy.

"My emotions were all over the place but people have been very supportive too.

"She was cremated and her ashes were placed next to her son who was murdered."

University student Paul Carr (25) was stabbed to death in a racially-motivated attack in London 13 years ago.

Mr Carr was mixed-race.

Two men were charged and convicted in connection with his murder.

Belfast Telegraph

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