“I think I have gained three more daughters. What we were able to do for them was a gift we gratefully accepted.”
Those are the words of good samaritan Colm Hackett, who was speaking after an inquest in Ennis, Co Clare, into the death of Madra Yuadoo Michael, aged 10, from Canada.
Details of Dr Hackett and his family’s extraordinary kindness to the girl’s three sisters and mother in the hours and days after her death have been revealed for the first time.
On Christmas Eve, Madra and her sisters Deliah, Ester, and Sabrina — all in their early 20s — were en route from Toronto to London on an Air Canada flight.
Madra stopped breathing within one hour of falling sick on the flight. Dr Hackett pronounced her dead at Shannon Airport at 8.25pm on Christmas Eve after the plane was forced to land due to the medical emergency.
Madra had lived with sickle cell anaemia all of her life but Dr Hackett discounted this condition as an immediate cause of death. He told the inquest that septicaemia — an infection of the blood — was the cause of Madra’s collapse after contracting an infection.
Having experienced tragedy in his own life with the death 17 years ago of son Jason, 22, in a drowning accident, Dr Hackett did not want Madra’s sisters to be alone at such a difficult time so he invited them into his home. They would remain there for a week.
Madra’s remains were brought to the home after a postmortem in Dublin and the Hacketts hosted a full Irish wake in their house.
Speaking outside Ennis courthouse, Dr Hackett recalled that the three sisters “were going through this absolutely woeful drama in the midst of all of this happiness around them on Christmas Eve night”.
“Three girls who were travelling with their sister. They had no parent with them and their sister is now dead. I tried to soothe them and help them at the airport, but there were other emergencies I had to attend to when I didn’t want to leave.”
When his Shannon Doc shift finished at midnight, he returned to the airport to see the girls but found that they had been given a room at the South Court hotel in Limerick.
He said: “It is now Christmas Day morning — it is wet, it is cold. The hotel is effectively closed. There are no lights on. I spoke to a night porter and I went down a corridor in darkness to that room. I knocked on the door and saw these three terribly unfortunate, distraught girls.
“I went home and a couple of hours later, my wife came in with me and saw the same scene. She was in no doubt there was only one place for them and that was our home.”
Reflecting on the events of last Christmas, he said: “I think I have gained three more daughters.”
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