Family of Lurgan man Harry Hanna share heartfelt gratitude for caring services of Southern Area Hospice

Members of a Lurgan family have shared their own personal story of how the Southern Area Hospice proved to be an ‘oasis in the midst of turmoil’.
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In advance of the hospice’s poignant Light Up a Life ceremony, the Hanna family have spoken about the outstanding care their dad Harry received at Southern Area Hospice Services.

Harry Hanna was born in Lurgan on August 14, 1940. He was first and foremost a family man who loved nothing more than being with his wife, Belle, children, Jenny, Stephen and Carole and his grandson, Sam.

The family said Harry always put their needs before his own. He was easy-going and had a positive outlook on life, no matter what the situation.

Harry Hanna. Picture: familyHarry Hanna. Picture: family
Harry Hanna. Picture: family

Harry was in the process of semi-retirement and handing on the reigns of the business to his son, when, at the age of 76, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2016 following a routine annual medical for his pilot’s licence.

Following his diagnosis, he underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy in January 2017 for six months and as a result was left weakened, feeling unwell and vulnerable. It was the Macmillan nurse who informed the family about the hospice and indicated that Harry would benefit from some inpatient care. The nurse felt that a blood-transfusion would help his strength and general wellbeing.

Harry was reticent at first but following chats with the Macmillan nurse and his family, he decided to ‘give it a go’ and in November of 2017 he was admitted.

"From the first day he arrived at the hospice Harry was made to feel so comfortable and cared for. He felt like he was in the best possible place and called the hospice his ‘five-star hotel’!

"He loved the food so much that he asked for the menu from Gary the chef, so that his family could recreate his favourite meals when he was home,” Harry’s family said.

The Lurgan man had such a positive first experience that his fears surrounding the term ‘hospice care’ disappeared and he was admitted to the inpatient unit on three separate occasions.

In December of 2018, he returned to the hospice. The staff were so sensitive and attentive to his needs, and his family were given the time and information they needed to prepare for what they thought was their final Christmas with their dad.

However, on December 21 after three weeks in the inpatient unit, Harry was able to go home and his family were fortunate to spend Christmas together.

They said: “We will never be able to thank the hospice enough for this opportunity and to hear the laughter around our dinner table once again”.

After a sudden decline in Harry’s health, he found himself back in hospice in February of 2019. This was to be the last week of his life and it was spent in the hospice amongst the staff who had become friends to him and his family.

They said: “It was where he wanted to be and where he felt safe and secure. During those difficult last days for us as a family, the hospice staff helped us to live through the end of Dad’s life, providing as much help and support as we needed. The medical staff were so in-tune with Dad’s needs and treated him with dignity and respect”.

The staff arranged Harry’s room so that the family could stay at night and rest beside his bed. This allowed them to have some lovely last moments together, where they laughed at memories of good times and also shed some tears.

The family commented: “We took great comfort in knowing Dad was pain-free and comfortable and in the early morning of February 8, 2019, Dad passed away peacefully with my brother by his side, aged 79.

"Dad was a tower of strength to our family and his wise counsel is missed dearly by all of us. As a family, we could not speak highly enough of the atmosphere of love and care that surrounded us whilst Dad was a patient in hospice. It might sound strange, but to us hospice was an oasis in the midst of turmoil, on every occasion that dad was there”.

The family felt that the services provided by the hospice were so joined-up. Everyone was aware of Harry’s illness, complications, and needs. They said it was refreshing and reassuring for them as a family to see the hospice team working together tirelessly for the benefit of their patients and families.

The family are so indebted to the hospice and one of Harry’s daughters recently set up a small painting business with all funds raised from sales going directly to hospice as a token of her sincere gratitude.

The family added: “To anyone considering hospice care, I would advise you to go in with an open heart and open mind and know that you or your loved one are in the most incredible hands.”

Southern Area Hospice invites members of the public to remember their loved ones at its Light Up a Life ceremony on Wednesday, December 6 at 12 noon in Craigavon Civic and Conference Centre. The ceremony will feature readings and reflections with music by St. Francis’ Primary School, Lurgan.

Supporters can dedicate a light on the virtual Christmas tree. To view the tree and leave your special message, visit www.southernareahospiceservices.org/light-up-a-life or phone 028 3026 7711.

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Liz Cuddy, CEO of Southern Area Hospice said, “Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for those who are bereaved. Our annual Light Up a Life event gives people the opportunity to get together to remember and honour their loved ones. We hope the ceremony will provide comfort, support, and a sense of community for those who are grieving. I would like to extend our sincere thanks to Gordon’s Chemists and Killowen Contracts Ltd for their very generous sponsorship for this year’s Light Up a Life campaign.”