Devoted mother, Scout leader and respected midwife passes aged 29

Hayley Hazley.
Hayley Hazley.

Hayley Hazley made an invaluable contribution on three fronts to the Portadown community during her short life - her devotion to her family; as a highly-qualified and caring midwife; and as a committed leader in the Scouting movement.

Hayley (29) passed in hospital after a seven-month battle with an extremely rare blood immune disorder - Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis or HLH - which affects one in 1.3 million of the population.

Hayley with husband Stuart and their daughter Olivia.

Hayley with husband Stuart and their daughter Olivia.

She is survived by husband Stuart and their two-year-old daughter Olivia, parents Nigel (Ted) and Alison Edwards, sister Kirsty, parents-in-law Brian and Helen Hazley, and grandmother Barbara Hewitt.

The extended family, the staff at Craigavon Area Hospital, and everyone throughout the local Scouting movement are devastated by the death of such a talented, dedicated young woman, whose willingness, enthusiasm and radiant smile endeared her to everyone who knew her.

Hayley (nee Edwards) started her life in England. The family moved to Portadown during her childhood and she attended Millington Primary School, Clounagh JHS and Portadown College. She gained two degrees in nursing through Queen’s University, Belfast, the first in General Nursing and the second in Midwifery.

While studying for her initial degree, Hayley met her future husband Stuart when they both were employed over the summer holidays in the ‘Game’ computer premises at Portadown’s High Street Mall. They were married on September 18, 2010, in the Templeton Hotel, Templepatrick. Baby Olivia was born in October 2014, and their home was at Bachelor’s Avenue, off the Killicomaine Road. Stuart works in the IT sector in Belfast.

Hayley Hazley.

Hayley Hazley.

In the meantime, Hayley worked for a year at Sandringham Care Home, Gilford Road, Portadown, and was a ‘bank nurse’, after which she gained her second degree, in midwifery. Her love for the profession and her compassion for people were evident when she chose an unusual and difficult placement during her studies.

She went to Kiwoko Hospital in rural Uganda, which was opened in 1991 after initial work by Bangor GP Ian Clark. It has 250 beds, and is widely supported from Northern Ireland. Hayley enjoyed the placement – she went with a nurse and doctor from the province, and it further focused her commitment to health and welfare.

She often reflected that the experience changed her as a person.

She found it difficult to accept that services in Africa were so basic and Spartan, compared with the luxury of the NHS back home.

On graduating, she worked for a while as a community midwife in Heartlands in the Birmingham area, and then returned to County Armagh as a midwife in Craigavon Area Hospital, respected by colleagues and patients.

Despite this busy life, Hayley remained an enthusiastic member of the Scouts. She joined 4th Portadown (St Mark’s) at the age of 14, and moved through the ranks to become a leader in the Beavers, which caters for the 6-8 age group.

Paul Walker, overall leader of the St Mark’s group and County Commissioner for Armagh, said, “Hayley was a valued member of our group for over 15 years, starting off as an Explorer Scout, very soon becoming a young leader and then a fully-trained Beaver Leader. She often volunteered to help at major District and County events where she taught young people and adults the various skills of first aid.

“She had a wonderful calm and gentle way, and showed great patience with those who had difficulty learning some of the more complex subjects. We feel as though we have lost a close family member.

“Hayley had a wonderful smile and inner warmth and our deepest sympathy goes to her family. In the comforting words of our founder, Lord Baden Powell, Hayley has ‘gone home’.”

A fortnight before she passed away, a group of leaders went by minibus to the City Hospital, Belfast, for her 29th birthday, to treat her to a party, complete with birthday cake.

Paul Walker said, “She was obviously unwell – the treatment was tough on her. But she smiled and laughed and enjoyed every minute. She kept saying how much she missed the Scouts and was her usual uplifting self. We thought she’d pull through, but sadly it wasn’t to be.”

Hayley’s family also wishes to thank her closest friends - Louise Barclay, Charis Elliott and Charlie Treanor, who call themselves ‘The Bridesmaids’ - for their love and concern throughout the traumatic times. “They were so helpful,” said her mum. “They will miss her. We’ll all miss her.”

The Scouts formed a Guard of Honour at St Mark’s Church on the day of the funeral, and organised the reception at the Parochial Hall in Carleton Street. Midwives from Craigavon attended in their uniforms. And in Heartland, Birmingham – where Hayley had worked – balloons were released in her memory to coincide with the service.

Rev William Orr, Rector of St Mark’s, conducted the Thanksgiving Service, and the tributes were paid by her father, by her sister Kirsty, and by cousin Lucy McConnell. They praised Hayley for her commitment and compassion in all aspects of her busy life and spoke of her infectious smile and talent for inspiring people. Hymns were ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and ‘10,000 reasons: Bless the Lord’.

Cremation was at Roselawn, Belfast, and committal will be at Kernan Cemetery. Donation in lieu of flowers are to Macmillan, c/o Joseph Poots and Son, Funeral Directors, 42 Bridge Street, Portadown BT63 5AE.