The grieving daughters of Co Armagh man, who died on Father’s Day after a short and unexplained illness, say they have taken solace in the fact their dad’s passing will leave a lasting legacy.
Jim Muckian, from Cullyhanna, was just 71 when he passed away on June 20, 2021.
His wife Margaret and four daughters, Mary Theresa, Aislinn, Jacqueline and Majella were left distraught. They were a close-knit family – their dad was their rock.
His death, to this day remains a mystery, but despite the lack of answers the family are delighted to have raised £20,000 in his memory.
That money has just recently gone towards the purchase of a much-needed bed at Craigavon Area Hospital, used specifically to transport patients with limited to no movement.
Jim was a patient at Craigavon in his final days. His daughters were grateful for the help and compassion they received from staff, so much so that they wanted to give back – something his daughters said would have made their dad so proud.
Mary Theresa and Jacqueline spoke to Armagh I about how “dad was everything to us”.
“He wasn’t sick – he was fit and healthy. He was looking forward to getting back to the Armagh matches – he was a diehard fan – but whatever came over him, we’re still not sure. The day he went into hospital – Monday, May 17 – we had been in Newry shopping that day.”
Later that evening Jim was doing exercises for his hip, which was usual for him, before going up to bed for a short rest.
“He came down a bit later and he hadn’t a clue where he was. That’s how quick it happened. We phoned for the ambulance and he was in the hospital later that night.
“There were tests and tests, every test possible but everything came back clear.”
Jim’s admission to hospital came at the height of the COVID pandemic which meant his family could not get in to see him, something the girls admit was tough on everyone.
“It’s sad because if they had said daddy was at end of life care we would have been allowed in to see him but the staff at Daisy Hill didn’t think he was at end of life. All his tests were coming back clear and they thought that it was maybe viral, that it would slowly get better.”
Unfortunately, it never did get better.
Jim’s family had to contend with calls over Zoom. “That was hard,” they said. They could see that their dad wasn’t well and they pushed for more tests.
“In fairness, they did everything that they could do at Daisy Hill, they just didn’t have answers but we were upset and COVID wasn’t helping us because we wanted to be there with daddy.”
It was at this point he was transferred to Craigavon to undergo an MRI scan.
They added: “Whatever happened in the MRI, the doctors in Craigavon weren’t happy. That was Friday and we were called down to Craigavon on Sunday. By the time we got down daddy had already been put on life support. We weren’t allowed in to see him but doctors rang us later to tell us what was going on.”
At this point, only two nominated people were allowed in to see him, with no chance of swapping. Mary Theresa and Aisling were the two nominated by the family.
“Craigavon were fantastic. You could have rang at three in the morning and staff would have put the phone up to daddy. They were awful good.
“I don’t think we realised but we thought dad would be on this machine a little while, and then taken off, before being moved onto a ward and in a couple of weeks he’d be home. I don’t think we realised that this was never going to happen.
“On Father’s Day, daddy’s life support was turned off. Mary Theresa and Aisling went in and read out the Father’s Day cards to dad while the rest of the family watched on from home via a videocall. We all sang ‘The Boys from County Armagh’ for him before his life support was turned off.
“It was hard not to be there with him; it was hard for mummy not to be there,” Jacqueline added.
“I personally still feel daddy is still in the hospital. We left him in the hospital and we’re waiting on a phone call to come and collect him to take him home.”
Mary Theresa also revealed that Kieran McGeeney – the Armagh manager – had sent a message to be played to Jim before they turned off the life-support machine.
“I would like to think he heard it,” she said. “He would have been chuffed that Kieran McGeeney actually sent him a message.”
Despite the grief, the four girls and their cousin, Colleen, decided they would do something to give back.
In June last year, the girls set about organising a truck run and evening with head-shaving, raffle and auction, all-in-all raising the brilliant sum of £20,000.
Said Jacqueline: “It was a couple of months of very, very hard work but we got there. There were sleepless nights and the fact it was only four of us and our cousin – five girls; sure we wouldn’t know the front of a lorry from the back.
“The grandchildren went door to door around the area. They raised £4,000 in tickets alone. The youngest would have only been four at the time but to sit back and watch them do that for their grandad, it was just lovely.
Jacqueline added: “Dad always helped everybody; anybody who needed anything done he was always there to do stuff for people. You try to give back and help as much as you can, just like he did.”
The girls cannot express their gratitude enough to the surrounding communities for all their support for without them the fundraising would not have happened.
The silver lining now is the help many more patients will receive in Jim’s name. Just this week the family took a call from Craigavon Hospital to say the bed had arrived and already one patients was utilising it and making great headway in their recovery as a result.
“Daddy would be proud to have that done for him and we’re proud to have done it in his name.”
The family are travelling to Craigavon next Thursday to see how the staff are getting on with their new piece of equipment.