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A devastated wife was given just 15 minutes to say goodbye to her husband of 15 years – highlighting the harrowing reality of the coronavirus pandemic.
Caring grandfather and dad-of-four Keith Parker succumbed to the killer bug at Queen’s Hospital in Essex in the early hours of Easter Sunday.
Wife Joanna was called just three hours after her partner was rushed into intensive care to be told his condition had significantly worsened, Essex Live reports.
The hospital restricts final goodbyes to just one family member, with Joanna making her way there after doctors told her Keith would likely only live for another few hours.
Covered from head to toe in protective gear and sitting amongst a COVID-19 ward with 38 other patients, she said Keith still made her laugh.
A quarter of an hour later she was ushered back out, describing it as “something out of a film”.
The proud granddad’s daughter Ellen-Betty Parker, 15, had been sent home from school with a fever and cough just a few weeks ago.
And before long each of the Romford family fell ill, including stepdaughter Taylor and her 11-month-old daughter.
Keith only had one lung, as well as chronic asthma, and diabetes, and so was in the high-risk bracket for the disease, raising some panic among his family who largely only displayed mild symptoms.
And so they began sticking closely to official government advice of rigorously isolating.
“We knew that dad was [at] risk so we haven’t been going out anywhere, only to the shops and getting medication,” Taylor told Essex Live.
“He became ill Monday (April 6) and we called an ambulance as we knew he was high risk.
“But because he was breathing fine they won’t take you in just in case you don’t have it and you could get it in the hospital,” she explained.
“They said if he is struggling to breathe then don’t be afraid to call again.”
Two days later their doctor prescribed Keith some medication for what he suspected might be pneumonia but on Good Friday morning he took a turn for the worse.
Taylor said he “didn’t look right” that day. “He wasn’t breathing, he had really short breaths and his face was grey, his lips were blue,” she continued.
“My friend is a paramedic and my neighbour is a nurse and they said to check his breathing reps and they said to call an ambulance straight away.
“They came and they were asking him questions and he couldn’t talk because his breathing was so bad.”
He was rushed into hospital where he was tested for COVID-19 before undergoing further tests, but Taylor and the family never dreamed that that would be the last time they saw Keith.
“We thought nothing of it,” she admitted. “We thought that he would be back in a couple of days because last year he was in and out of the hospital a lot.
“We were used to him going in and coming out. They admitted him on Friday and we didn’t know where he was because he couldn’t talk to us on the phone.
“Mum got in contact with the hospital and they said he was in resus and they would move him up to the ward in a couple of hours.”
But on a Saturday morning, his breathing had dropped significantly.
“They said that they had put him on a ventilator and they were doing everything they could, but there’s nothing more they can do,” said Taylor.
“They said ‘If it gets to that point, we will phone you and contact you if there’s enough time.'”
Devastatingly, just three hours later, they got the call.
“It was only my mum who could spend 15 minutes with him to say goodbye,” she said.
“It was really hard. They said that we needed to get here and come down. They said it could be a matter of three or 24 hours.
“I stayed in the car in the hospital car park so there was someone when she came out.
“She went in and said it was the most horrible thing she has ever seen. That entire ward of 38 other people, it was something out of the films she said, it was absolutely horrible.
“She didn’t get to hug him or kiss him, she was gloved up and wearing the other things and that horrible face mask.
Keith sadly passed away in the early hours of the next morning – confirmed later from COVID-19, asthma, and pneumonia.
“It was the hardest thing she has ever had to do,” Taylor continued.
“Mum came out and in the car, she was sobbing. They just said ‘You have to wait for the call’, they said it could be hours.”
At 4.30 am on Easter Sunday, the call came in to say that Keith had tragically passed away.
The hardest part for the family is not being able to all be together and support one another, said Taylor.
Keith had a particularly special relationship with his granddaughter, who he loved very much.
“I moved here before she was born and they had such a close bond,” Taylor said.
“She’s a little pick-me-up, she’s keeping us going at the moment. He adored her – she would walk up to his chair and give him cuddles.”
While Joanna was a full-time carer for her husband meaning since he has passed, the cost of a funeral is just another worry on their shoulders.
They have started a GoFundMe page so that they can raise money to give their dad the funeral he deserves.
Taylor also wanted to thank the NHS staff who looked after her dad and her mum when she came to visit.
And Sarra Webb and Sian Wicks who both personally knew and helped with their dad’s condition.
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We would like to express our sympathy to the family at this very difficult time.
“We are working incredibly hard in these unprecedented times to look after Londoners.”.
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