Altnagelvin Hospital: Staff help fulfil dying woman's wish to get married

Jacqueline and Martin McCullagh Image copyright Martin McCullagh
Image caption Martin McCullagh said everyone in the village of Plumbridge knew how close they were

The husband of a Tyrone woman who died hours after they married has thanked hospital staff for helping to fulfil her dying wish of having a wedding.

Jacqueline McCullagh, 57, died at Londonderry's Altnagelvin hospital in February. She had cancer.

She married her partner of 20 years from her hospital bed after being told her condition had worsened.

Martin McCullagh described the moment as "beautiful and sad all at the same time."

"She was an amazing woman, full of life, full of happiness," Mr McCullagh said.

"We were real soul mates. We were always going to get married for our 60th, a nice sensible age and we could enjoy it and it was something to look forward to.

"When she got diagnosed we talked about it and she wanted to bring it forward."

Image caption Staff decorated a room with flowers for the marriage ceremony

Mr McCullagh was, himself, diagnosed with spinal cancer over a year ago and was initially treated in Birmingham.

Jacqueline stayed with him for six months, looking after him.

Mr McCullagh then had another nine months of treatment at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.

He said he would never have got through the ordeal without her.

'The registrar was in tears'

In October, Jacqueline was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Last month, she was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital suffering from pneumonia but deteriorated.

"They tried and they tried but the body, from the chemotherapy, just didn't have the fight," said Mr McCullagh.

"We phoned the registrar and she said she'd be able to do it [marry us] in the hospital.

"Jacqueline was so strong that she held on and held on. She managed to get out of bed and sit in the chair, and shout out 'I do' at the top of her voice."

Image copyright Martin McCullagh
Image caption A selfie taken by Martin and Jacqueline

Mr McCullagh said the hospital staff were wonderful.

"They were just lovely, They cleared out one of the consulting rooms, it was like a little grotto with the arch and all the flowers," he said.

"She didn't see it unfortunately, she didn't have the strength to go in there and we had to get married in her room.

"For her to get out of bed was a miracle. In her condition, she managed to get her wedding dress on and her make-up on."

'She looked stunning'

"We just kissed and said how much we loved each other, she said: 'I'm so proud to be Mrs McCullagh'."

Doctors then told Mr McCullagh that his wife was in a great deal of pain.

"We just sat there in the room, holding hands and she just went to sleep," he said.

"After all the pain and trouble she'd been through, it was the most peaceful passing and she looked stunning."

Mr McCullagh said he is filled with pride to be able to call Jacqueline his wife.

"I considered her my wife anyway, but to be officially recognised as my wife...it was her main wish in the end," he said.