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‘We had one more of everything to do’
Alexandra Fredericks, 69, from Fordingbridge, Hampshire, is struggling to digest the death of her husband Jeremy, 74. He died at Salisbury hospital on 25 January 2021, after contracting coronavirus.
“Jeremy was taken into hospital on 9 January to have a pacemaker fitted. He was not able to have the procedure immediately so was still in hospital on 15 January when a patient was brought on to the coronary ward, who proved to have Covid. Three days later we were told by hospital doctors that he had caught the virus and would have to wait 10 days to have his pacemaker fitted,” she recalls.
“We counted the days down, but on 24 January he became mildly unwell, before his condition suddenly deteriorated quickly overnight. By the next morning, he had died.”
Fredericks says she was informed her husband had contracted the virus on one of the three wards he was admitted to, and that the hospital attempted to discharge him after he had tested positive.
“The doctors admitted that he caught Covid in hospital. I asked: ‘Could he possibly have brought it in with him?’ And they said: ‘No, he tested negative twice.’ I feel lucky that the hospital acknowledged that he caught Covid on the ward, because that would have been too difficult to take otherwise.
“Within three days of testing positive, he was told he could go home and come back in as an outpatient. I have a 96-year-old mother, so this wasn’t an option,” Fredericks says.
“The doctor who signed his death certificate phoned me and told me that he was listing Covid as one of the causes of death, next to two of his previous conditions, and said that my husband’s case was going to be referred internally for review, whatever that means. I never asked how he got infected because I didn’t think they would tell me. We haven’t seen his notes and didn’t ask for them, because, you know, he’s gone now.”
Fredericks is aware that her husband was frail, but is convinced he died unnecessarily before his time. “Jem did have multiple underlying health problems, but he was not at death’s door when he was taken in. He would have survived the procedure and would still be alive and at home now. Ultimately, I blame the government.
“He had a few more years in him, and we had plans. We had one more of everything to do: one more trip to Belgium, one more trip to visit family and friends, to feel the sun once more – he loved the sun. Nothing would have stopped him, except this. It was a huge shock.”
Stacey Hunter, the chief executive of Salisbury NHS trust, said: “Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult and distressing time. Our staff have closely followed Public Health England infection prevention guidance throughout the pandemic.”
‘It simply wasn’t fair’
While Fredericks feels that she had at least some kind of closure in learning her husband was infected in hospital, Kevin Stevenson, 57, has thus far felt unable to understand the exact circumstances of his partner’s death.
Dr Aruna Narshi, 50, taught the molecular biology of cancer and mathematics at Solihull College and University Centre. She died at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in September.
“She went into hospital for a spinal operation just after our second anniversary in August. She had been shielding for months and tested negative for Covid on admission, and her operation was a complete success. She remained in hospital for a week, recovering her mobility. It was a miracle, within 24 hours she was able to walk again,” Stevenson says.
Earlier that year, Narshi had been diagnosed with cancer, but Stevenson believes that she would not have died when she did, had she had not been infected with Covid.
“We were told she wasn’t going to live for very long, but they didn’t give us a specific timeframe, and the decision was made that she should have this major spinal surgery to improve her quality of life.
“She was looking forward to coming home. They were all set to discharge her, but about a week post-op, she had a temperature, and suddenly tested positive for Covid. She was supposed to come home on Friday. By Monday, she was dead. She never even made it from a ward into intensive care. It was horrible. It simply wasn’t fair.”
Stevenson was too distraught to enquire how his partner had become infected with the virus. However, the hospital informed her brother in December in a letter – seen by the Guardian – that two other patients on her ward had been asymptomatic Covid cases, and that “staff were having breaks together without adequate social distancing, which led to further staff needing to isolate”.
The hospital apologised for “the incident”, but never explicitly acknowledged that Narshi caught Covid while in their care. “From my point of view it doesn’t matter, that won’t bring her back either,” Stevenson says. “She was an absolute diamond and she didn’t deserve this.”
A spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth, said: “The trust extends its deepest condolences to Dr Narshi’s family, friends and loved ones.
“The impact of this pandemic within hospitals and in our communities has had far-reaching and tragic consequences for many, including the sad death of Dr Narshi. We will continue to review each case and learn the lessons required to support the efforts of staff to keep our patients safer from infections.”
‘I’d fully support an inquiry into hospital transmission rates’
Terry Carr, 61, from Southport, lost her 84-year-old mother, Yvonne Moore, to Covid-19 in April last year, and is still looking for answers.
“My mother was admitted to Southport & Formby district general hospital on 6 April 2020, after suffering a fall. She was otherwise well but the GP, who looked frightened herself, said she needed to be admitted to hospital despite our protestations. On admission, she tested negative for Covid-19, yet I was informed by the doctor that she was on a ward with Covid-19 patients, but ‘being protected’ in a side room,” Carr says.
Her mother, Carr recalls, appeared to be relatively well over the next few days, and her discharge from hospital was supposed to be on 11 April. “She was absolutely fine, but a week into her stay she began deteriorating rapidly, and on 18 April we got the shocking news that she had tested positive. She died alone, afraid and in distress, on 30 April. It was horrendous.”
Carr cannot fathom how her mother would have caught the virus prior to being admitted. “She was only visited by a private carer, who was very careful since her own family was vulnerable, and myself – and neither of us had any symptoms, nor any physical contact with my mother.
“I discussed with her doctor how it might have happened. He said she could have had a false negative when she arrived at hospital, and her catching it on the ward was never mentioned as a possibility. I would fully support an inquiry into hospital transmission rates. My mum had just turned 84, but she definitely died before her time.”
A hospital source said that Moore was treated as a Covid-positive patient when she was admitted after her fall, even though she had not yet tested positive, because she had symptoms of the disease.
Steve Christian, deputy chief executive of Southport and Ormskirk hospital trust, said: “Our thoughts are very much with Mrs Moore’s family as they approach the anniversary of her death. The trust implemented robust infection control measures in line with guidance from Public Health England, which staff have been following closely throughout the pandemic.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘She didn’t deserve this’: families on loved ones who caught Covid in hospital | Coronavirus