The impact my husband's death had on NHS staff

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Sandra and Ian WilsonImage source, Sandra Wilson
Image caption,
Ian Wilson died from Covid-19 two days after being taken into hospital

After being told her husband was dying from Covid-19, Sandra Wilson heard the doctor crying down the phone.

"He explained that I wouldn't be able to visit him and that he would look after him as if he was his own father or grandfather," she said.

"But there was nothing they could do to make him better."

Ian Wilson, 72, died two days after being taken into hospital on 27 March.

Sandra, 59, had cared for him for two weeks at their home in Coatbridge as he battled a high temperature and delirium. He also had a heart condition and diabetes.

Initially she was not allowed to visit him - but once the severity of Ian's condition became apparent, hospital staff granted her access provided she wore protective equipment.

The decision meant Sandra was by Ian's side when he died.

Image source, Sandra Wilson

She told the BBC she was struck by how acutely NHS staff were affected, not only by Ian's death, but by their inability to comfort grieving families because of social distancing protocol.

"It was difficult after he had died," Sandra said. "I left the room and told the nurse what had happened and she came towards me as if to cuddle me, then stopped and reversed.

"She apologised and said 'I can't even pat you on the shoulder'. I left, there was nothing else I could do."

'I thought it was a UTI'

When Ian first became unwell, he did not show signs of the most well-known symptoms of Covid-19, according to Sandra.

"We thought he had a urinary tract infection," she said. "The hospital at home team suspected it was Covid-19 but I was still confused by it because he hadn't coughed.

"A few days later they tested him and it came back positive. He had been unwell for over a week before we knew that it was Covid-19."

Later the family had to decide whether or not to send Ian to hospital. Sandra knew visiting would be difficult and did not want him to be in a strange environment during his spells of delirium.

She said she was lucky to have been by Ian's side eventually, but fears other families will have a far more difficult hospital experience.

She said: "It's a very strange situation but I'm very, very grateful to the nurses and doctors that made it possible for me to visit.

"I feel sorry for people in the future who won't be able to. Ian was in a ward where there were only three patients, but as they wards fill up they'll not be able to let everybody in."

After saying goodbye to her husband, Sandra was unable to see her children in person as she had to undergo a period of self-isolation.

The family will also have to travel to the crematorium in separate cars and cannot be in close contact during the service.

But Sandra has been taking comfort in the letters, cards and well-wishings sent from loved ones who will not be able to attend Ian's funeral.

Image source, Sandra Wilson

As a school janitor, he was remembered fondly by pupils as well as friends and family.

Sandra said: "I've had many many phone calls so it has helped to talk.

"Normally you would tell stories about people at the funeral, but because they can't do that, some have been writing wee stories on cards."

Sandra hopes her family's story will encourage people to "stay at home and protect the NHS" and remains grateful to the health care staff who allowed her to watch over her husband until the end.

"It gave me time to come to terms with the inevitable," she said.

"I was able to talk to him and just say goodbye. I've got strength from that."