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'So beautiful' Family of tragic teen welcome new palliative care unit in children's hospital where he spent final weeks

Ann said she was moved to tears when she went to the hospital to see the suite for herself this week.

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Michael Stokes with his foster parents Ann and Barry

Michael Stokes with his foster parents Ann and Barry

Michael Stokes with his foster parents Ann and Barry

The family of a teenager who died in a tragic accident have welcomed the addition of a special suite in the hospital where he spent his final weeks.

Michael Stokes stole the hearts of the nation with his cheerful appearance in hit RTÉ show Room to Improve before dying following an accident in 2018.

The 15-year-old boy was born with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta which causes brittle bones which can break easily.

Now foster mum Ann Higgins said that the provision of the new Butterfly Suite at Children's Health Ireland in Temple Street will provide comfort and protected space to families facing the experience of losing a child.

The Butterfly Suite was officially opened last week to coincide with Palliative Care Week.

"Our experience in Temple Street in the final few days was very difficult," said Ann.

"We were on a ward. It was busy. That's the nature of it - there's lots of sick kids and there's nurses, doctors flying around the place. In the midst of it all you have a very ill child who just needs peace, quiet and parents need the same. You need to facilitate to let family members come and spend some really precious last moments."

Ann said she was moved to tears when she went to the hospital to see the suite for herself this week.

"It's state of the art but it's just so beautiful.

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Butterfly Suite CHI

Butterfly Suite CHI

Butterfly Suite CHI

"It's all beautifully designed, so that the medical equipment that they need can all be there if it needs to be there, it can be removed if it needs to be removed.

"Families can bring all of their own personal effects. The child's favourite personal things can be brought in. It can be the right experience for each family in the way that they need it to be. You're really handing over control to the family."

As well as the patient's room which has a large double bed, the suite includes a parents' room which is made up of a sitting area, with overnight facilities, an en-suite and small kitchen/breakfast area. The suite also features a fireplace, television and couches, as well as the non-intrusive inclusion of all the clinical facilities that might be needed for the medical care of a child. In addition, an outdoor space was included with seating, again based on feedback from parents.

Michael used to say that he had two mums and dads and Ann and her husband Barry McCabe had fostered him since he was eight years old. Ann used to be Michael's teacher before the couple grew close to the youngster and brought him into their home and hearts.

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They long knew of his joyful and funny manner but the whole of Ireland encountered it when he featured on Dermot Bannon's home show, Room to Improve.

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Butterfly Suite CHI

Butterfly Suite CHI

Butterfly Suite CHI

The incredible reaction to his appearance on the show was apparent from the very next day. "Michael and Barry were walking down the road to the village to go get breakfast and the horns were beeping and there were people waving. I think he became an overnight national treasure and he loved it. Michael loved the limelight. We were convinced that he was going to make a life for himself in the media or TV, because he has an incredible ability with people. He used to say: 'I'm excited for my life'."

Michael tragically died following an accident in 2018, the details of which the family want to keep private. His injuries were complicated by his condition and he spent seven weeks fighting for his life in Temple Street.

Ann plans to celebrate Michael's life by creating a book about him.

"It'll be mostly photos with some script. I'll be gathering memories from his friends. It's going to take me a while to do it. But he deserves to be remembered and in the process maybe we'll raise a little bit of money for Temple Street.

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