Tuesday 21 January 2020

Daffodil Day: 'We were lost, she guided us through a very difficult time' - Widower thanks nurse who helped his dying wife

John Coyle and his daughter Alison Hardy
John Coyle and his daughter Alison Hardy
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

John Coyle's beautiful wife Sylvia passed away just a year ago after a four-year battle with bowel cancer.

She was able to stay at home during her final days, where she passed away peacefully, thanks to the night nurse service run by the Irish Cancer Society.

Dad-of-four Mr Coyle, a farmer from Athy, Co Kildare, said that his wife, who was a very glamorous woman, was just 63 when she died.

Mr Coyle said that a year on, he misses her every day.

Ms Coyle's night nurse Geraldine de Búrca met up with Mr Coyle and his daughter Alison in Dublin this week, to highlight the importance of the Irish Cancer Society's Daffodil Day.

The invaluable night nurse service is funded through the donations that are made today.

"It was Sylvia's wish to stay at home and the Irish Cancer Society's night nurse enabled her to do that," Mr Coyle said.

"As well as caring for her, night nurse Geraldine talked to Sylvia about her worries, which was a great comfort to her.

"Geraldine looked after the whole family.

"We were lost and she guided us through the very difficult time.

"She was invaluable to us and so compassionate.

"This is a vital service and we are asking people to donate on Daffodil Day so that other cancer patients can receive the same excellent care," he said.

Ms Coyle was first diagnosed in October 2012, and she fought for four-and-a-half years.

The family marked the first anniversary of her death yesterday with a visit to her grave, with flowers.

The couple had four children together, Jonathan (37), Alison (34), Jenna (30) and Shannon (26).

Coincidentally, Shannon is now nursing in Tallaght, where her mum underwent many of her treatments.

"There were four operations, four lots of chemotherapy," Mr Coyle said.

He paid tribute to the work of the Irish Cancer Society and night nurses who offer so much assistance to people like his wife.


Every hour a person dies from cancer in Ireland.

More than 7,000 nights of nursing care were made possible by donations from the public and companies last year.

Ms de Búrca said that she was 13 years working as a night nurse for the society.

"I work in the midland counties, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly and Kildare," she said.

"We are booked by the Irish Cancer Society in Dublin to go into the houses of people.

"There are 200 of us night nurses in the country.

"I suppose about 70pc of people actually want to die at home, so we facilitate that," she said.

"We start work at 11pm and we finish at 7am. People are more vulnerable at night time.

"It means we can go into the house, and if they want, people can get a few hours sleep and we will stay with their loved one."

Sometimes, the patient will wake up in the middle of the night and want to chat too, she said.

"It is a roller-coaster ride of emotions for families at a time like this."

Ms de Búrca said that many people don't know that the funds raised on Daffodil Day go to provide this service, which is completely free to families.

She added that the nurses couldn't do what they do, if people didn't come out today and give up their time to do the fundraising.

"They are fantastic," she said.

See www.cancer.ie/daffodilday or text 'Daff' to 50300 to donate €4

Irish Independent

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