Family of west Belfast coronavirus victim plead with people to follow advice to stay at home

Turf Lodge woman Mary Shortt (78) passed away as a result of coronavirus at the Mater Hospital on Thursday
Marie Louise McConville

THE family of a west Belfast great-grandmother who died as a result of coronavirus have pleaded with people to follow advice to stay at home, saying: "We need to come together in this."

Mary Shortt, who was 78 and a much-loved mother-of-eight, died at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast in the early hours of Thursday.

Originally from Baker Street in the Pound Loney area, and living in Turf Lodge, she had been unwell in her home for a number of days with medics initially believing she may have food poisoning or an infection.

Amid concerns she needed antibiotics, she was taken into the Mater last Friday.

The following day, her family were informed she had tested positive for coronavirus and anyone who had been in contact with her should self-isolate.

In the early hours of Thursday, Mrs Shortt's daughter Roisin McCallum was contacted by a nurse who asked her to call her mother's mobile phone, offering to hold it to her ear.

"I heard her shallow breathing," said Roisin.

"I said `Mummy, I love you so much. I am here with you. Close your eyes and go asleep. You are at peace now'.

"The nurse said `Roisin, she can hear you, her eyes are flickering'.".

The family were later informed that their mother had died at 3.20am.

Roisin said her mother had none of the symptoms commonly associated with coronavirus.

"It just doesn't feel real," she said.

"I can't even go to hug my brothers or sister. I am devastated. I just feel empty. She will be greatly missed by everyone."

The mother-of-three described Mrs Shortt as someone who was "full of life".

"She always put her family first," she said.

"She would have thought of you before she thought of herself. She was always there."

Unable to have a full funeral, six of Mrs Shortt's children will gather tomorrow to watch her laid to rest.

"I don't think it has sunk in yet. Tomorrow will be the first I have seen my sister and brothers," Roisin said.

Describing the staff at the Mater including the nurse who contacted her as "amazing", she also pleaded with people to follow official advice.

"Please listen to the information you are given and stay at home," she said.

"Do not go out unless you totally need to. We need to come together in this."

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