THE Castlederg community gathered recently for a night of celebration in honour of recently retired district nurse, Sister Eileen Doherty.
Eileen has worked as a nurse for almost 50 years. For 36 of those years she served as district nurse in Castlederg.
On April 1, a special concert and presentation was held in St Davog’s GAC centre on behalf of Eileen who has been described as “everybody’s friend.”
Nursing has changed drastically over the past 40 years and within that time community and palliative care has transformed the way people who are terminally ill are now cared for.
Eileen was instrumental in bringing community and palliative care to the people of Castlederg.
Up until her recent retirement she worked daily with cancer patients and patients who suffer from terminal illnesses.
Along with local GP, Dr Brendan O’Hare, Eileen set up the Castlederg Patient Comfort and Terminally Ill Fund which has been a roaring success.
The charity provides support to patients with cancer and other serious illness who live in the Castlederg and surrounding areas by offering help with personal and health needs, specialised equipment and financial support where there is hardship. Since its formation the charity has raised £500,000 for the care of local terminally ill people.
Eileen worked in Castlederg throughout the Troubles but she said the violence never had any impact on her role in the community.
“I was very well accepted throughout the community. As far as I was concerned the people I worked with were my patients and I was going to do the best I could for each and every one of them.”
This was clearly demonstrated by the attendance of people and religious figures from both sides of the community on at her retirement night.
Paying tribute to Eileen, Dr Brian Dougan, who has witnessed Eileen work both professionally and on a personal level when she nursed his mother through a terminal disease, said, “It is difficult to put into words the respect, admiration and gratitude that we all have for Eileen.
“As many of us know, cancer treatments can fail, the disease progresses and at that stage only a few health professionals can step forward and that is the palliative care staff.
“It is a difficult time and an emotional time when people know that life’s journey is coming to an end. There are concerns about what those final moments are going to like for the patient and it takes a very special person to step into that space.
“Eileen is that very special person,” he added.
“She has tremendous qualities of compassion and empathy as well as specialised up-to-date knowledge of palliative care medicine.
“A text book will only take you so far in that field but Eileen has experience, and experience teaches you so much more than a text book ever will. Eileen brings a great calmness to everything she does, she is thoughtful and happy and she has offered a lifetime of service to this community. One thousand thank yous Eileen from me… and the whole community of Castlederg.”
Although Eileen has just begun her retirement she says her plan, for now, is “just to rest.”