Families who lost teens to cancer speak out on ‘horrendous facilities’

  • Video report by Sarah Clarke:

The parents of two teenagers who died from leukemia during lockdown have described the hospital facilities their children were treated in as “horrendous”.

At one point, Robert Keown was forced to sleep on the floor of a ward in Belfast City Hospital beside his terminally ill daughter Adele.

Meanwhile, Miranda Rogers’ son Ozzie made a plea for better facilities on social media before he died, saying those in other parts of the UK looked like “heaven, when what we have here is hell”.

Part of Ozzie's post on social media about his experience of cancer facilities in NI. Credit: UTV

Adelle, 18, and Ozzie, 17, became close friends after being diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago.

Each knowing exactly what the other was going through, they were a source of support for each other throughout their treatment.

The teenagers sadly died just weeks apart.

Burying a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, but the two families feel the facilities their children experienced only added to the trauma of their difficult journey.

“It was just horrendous, to be honest – absolutely horrendous,” Ozzie’s mum Miranda told UTV.

“Even for an adult having to go through that, the loneliness and how it would affect people being in there, their mental health.”

Adelle’s dad Robert added: “They’re not suitable for teenagers or young adults, or for the families to stay in – there’s no facilities for the families to sleep on.

“I was sleeping on chairs and on the floor at some stages.

“I can’t fault the care that Adelle got. But it’s just the facilities, they’re not good enough. They’re just not good enough.”

Adelle was diagnosed two years ago. Credit: Family photo

In a statement, the Health and Social Care Board said they acknowledged further work could be done to improve what they described as the “patient experience of care”.

The board added that the next phase of the new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland focuses on teenagers and young adults and is due to start this month.

But a leading charity says the gap between paediatric and adult cancer care needs to be addressed.

Phil Alexander, from Cancer Fund for Children, said it was important to ask what could be done to improve treatment facilities, noting: “Young people who have a cancer diagnosis are some of the most vulnerable young people in society.”

In the meantime, Adelle and Ozzie’s families want to win the fight for improvements – and, in just under two weeks, nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition to that end.

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