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Just one more Covid death...

How one man left this world at 55 to the sound of cries of love over Zoom

By Jon McKnightPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Just one more Covid death...
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

The daily Coronavirus death toll in the UK rose that day by one thousand, four hundred and one.

My brother-in-law was that one.

He was 55, had no known underlying health conditions, and had taken the lockdown and Covid 19 precautions seriously.

While others were cramming themselves by the hundred into illegal house-parties, threatening teenaged girls who challenged their masklessness in supermarkets or shouting at A&E workers staggering home after 12-hour shifts, telling them that Coronavirus was a hoax, he had been part of the decent majority - working from home, wearing his mask, washing his hands, and doing his best to do his bit during the worst crisis this country has faced since the Second World War.

Despite being born long before the world wide web was even a twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s eye, he became an IT expert good enough to keep a hedge-fund running from its office in a swish part of London - a company that could afford to employ only the best - and he knew computers literally inside-out.

He and his daughter both caught Covid 19 - we don’t know how - and both had to go to hospital just before Christmas.

But while she had it mildly, her father’s breathing worsened and he was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve. Like so many patients, he managed initially with a C-Pap breathing aid then had to be put into a coma to go on a ventilator.

And like the other one thousand and four hundred families who were to lose a loved one on the same day, we lived in hope.

Some of his sisters became almost expert patients, learning everything they could about the condition in record time, and having deep conversations with the consultants, doctors and nurses in their social circle.

He was moved, still in the induced coma, to a second hospital in London, an ICU overwhelmed no doubt like so many others, where he nevertheless received the best care on Earth, regardless of cost, and all thanks to the free-at-the-point-of-delivery National Health Service.

He was stable for much of the time - a description that, realistically, meant that while he wasn’t getting any worse, he wasn’t getting any better, either - but last Saturday his condition worsened and his wife, daughter and 13-year-old son were granted an end-of-life visit.

Grim as it was, they were aware of how privileged they were to have even that, as so many Covid 19 patients die completely alone, with visitors banned, or at the very best having a doctor or a nurse holding their hand as they expire.

In his case, his daughter was able to host a Zoom group chat from his bedside so his sisters, including one in the USA, were able to see him and hear everything that was going on.

I have witnessed some terrible things in 40 years as a journalist, but sitting next to my wife while she and her sisters and parents called out their final farewells to him over Zoom was one of the most heart-wrenching situations I’ve ever experienced.

Buoyed by the knowledge that comatose patients can often hear what’s being said to them, as reported by reliable sources including the journalist Geoffrey Lean, the heartfelt cries of love and implorings to get better appeared, for a while, to have worked.

His vital signs visibly improved on the monitors around him and, throughout that evening, he began requiring less oxygen and other support.

But on Thursday afternoon he deteriorated suddenly, as is all so common with Covid 19 patients, and his wife and children were allowed a rare, second end-of-life visit to his bedside.

His demise, we were told, was imminent, and his vital signs worsened visibly and rapidly as his siblings and parents and offspring called out what proved, sadly, to be their final farewells.

It is said, and I hope it’s true, that hearing is the last of the faculties to go, so it’s comforting to believe that the last thing he heard as he left this world were words and cries of love from those closest to him.

Few of us want to die, but a death doesn’t get better than that.

Thanks to the kindness and tolerance and, indeed, support of the ICU staff at St George’s Hospital, his exit from this world was as loving as his arrival in it, fifty-five years ago.

He left us far too soon, of course, and became yet another statistic in a pandemic that’s full of them, but his death is a reminder that Covid 19 is an equal-opportunities killer that doesn’t mind if its victims are younger than they should be, or followed the rules scrupulously, or were simply far too decent a human being to deserve such a fate.

That’s what we’re up against.

My brother-in-law has left a huge hole in so many lives, a hole that will never be properly filled, and yet, on Thursday, he was just one of one thousand, four hundred and one of those who succumbed to the virus.

It’s easy, and comforting, to watch the daily death toll and the Downing Street briefings and think it won’t happen to us - but it can, and it does, and it did for him.

He was a decent, funny, family man who loved his wife, was so proud of his children, and was loved to bits by his parents and his five siblings.

Let’s hope that anyone who’s read this will think of him next time they wonder whether it’s necessary to wear a mask, to use the sanitiser, or to stay at home.

If they do, and even one more life is saved, at least some good will have come out of his death.

We will remember him.


About the Creator

Jon McKnight

I have left Vocal.

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