Dad was more than just a statistic – he was everything to us

Dad was more than just a statistic – he was everything to us

January 30, 2021

HE was the UK’s first recorded Covid victim – but he was also a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Peter Attwood, 84, from Chatham, Kent, died in hospital exactly a year ago today – the first person known to have died from coronavirus on British soil.

This week, as the UK virus death toll supasses 100,000, there is a horrifying twist to Peter’s story.

His beloved wife of 50 years has also tested positive for the killer bug.

It means Jean, 86, who suffers from dementia, will spend the first anniversary of her husband’s death in isolation at the care home where she now lives.

Speaking to The Sun, their daughter Jane Buckland, 47, says: “This past year has been horrendous.

“I think it’s only now I’ve just started to grieve for dad because I had been caring for my mum.”

More killed by pandemic than during WW2 blitz

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that Britain had reached the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths earlier this week, making it the worst hit country in Europe since the pandemic began.

In one year, more civilians have been killed by coronavirus than the 70,000 killed in the six years of World War 2.

But like many families, Jane is desperate for the public to remember the people behind the numbers.

She says: “Dad was more than a statistic. He was a real family man. He was so clever with his hands and great at DIY. He used to do everything for us.”

When retired car dealership company secretary Peter died in hospital, heart failure and pneumonia were initially blamed. But a post-mortem in August revealed he had actually died from coronavirus.

He had fallen ill with a mystery cough and fever in December 2019 – more than two months before officials discovered the virus was spreading in the UK.

Mum-of-one Jane fears she unwittingly passed the virus onto her Dad after she fell ill with what she now knows to be Covid-19 symptoms on December 15, meaning the virus could have been in Britain at least two weeks before China announced its first confirmed case.

She says: “I have spent a long time punishing myself about that but we just didn’t know.

“We just thought it was the flu, which both my parents had been vaccinated against.”


'Unimaginable pain' of losing healthy 21-year-old with whole life ahead of her

As China started to feel the sting of the new horror disease, Beijing's officials said the outbreak emerged in a Wuhan wet market in late 2019 and started to spread.

For many Brits, it still felt like a far-off foreign threat – even as it started to spread around the world, causing Italy to become the first European country to go into national lockdown on March 9.

But it soon became apparent just how dangerous the virus could be when it claimed the life of one of its youngest victims here.

Care home worker Chloe Middleton, from High Wycombe, Bucks, had no underlying health conditions when she died aged just 21, on March 19.

Speaking to the Sun, her aunt Emily Mistry, a nurse, said: "Chloe was one of the first people to die from Covid.

“When she passed, only around 150 people had lost their lives so to reach 100,000 is a very sobering figure.

“What we would like as a family is for Chloe to be remembered for being the person she was, not just another number.”

At the time of Chloe’s death, Emily posted on Facebook of the family’s “unimaginable pain” and urged others to start taking the virus seriously.

Chloe was bubbly, kind and positive – she was not just another number

Reflecting now, she adds: “Chloe was just coming into the prime of her life. Life was going well. She had a lovely boyfriend, John, who was with her when she died.

"She was very bubbly, happy-go-lucky and saw the positive side of everything.

“Her passing has left a huge hole in many people's hearts."

Carers who made the ultimate sacrifice

With the number of cases rising in the UK, Britain went into a national lockdown on March 23.

In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Brits to stay at home, banned gatherings of more than two people, and closed all non-essential shops.

The next day, the UK recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day, after a further 87 people died across the country, bringing the total to 422.

A sobering reminder that the virus did not discriminate came when the prime minister was taken ill and admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where he spent several nights in the intensive care unit before being discharged a week later.

In a video message, he thanked the two nurses who had cared for him and said the NHS had "saved my life, no question".

Many other patients were not so lucky. While Brits took to their doorsteps for the weekly Clap For Carers, the death rate continued to spiral. 

By mid April, the UK had hit 20,000 deaths, amid concerns over a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, with some hospitals coming within hours of running out of vital equipment.

Stories of heroism and heartbreak emerged from the frontline. Shortages of equipment, including ventilators, beds and staff due to the immense strain the virus placed on the NHS, meant medics were forced to choose whose life to save.

And while the virus ripped through care homes – with more than 26,000 people killed there so far in the UK – some dedicated care workers isolated from their loved ones, even sleeping in tents for weeks on end to protect their elderly residents. 

Many made the ultimate sacrifice in caring for us. At least 221 frontline health and care workers are believed to have died from coronavirus.

Above and beyond the call of duty

Among them was GP Dr Karamat Ullah Mirza, 84, who carried on treating people at the Old Road Medical Practice in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, where he worked until only a fortnight before he died in May.

His wife Estelle says: “He was more than just a doctor. He was a hero. He worked tirelessly for patients, kept sweets in his draw for children and nothing was too much trouble. He was working up until a fortnight before he died.

“I'm still working at the practice and patients every day tell me how much they miss him and how much he meant. I miss him so much, in every way you could imagine.”

And the daughter of carer Sue Prince, 62, from Pens­nett, West Mids, who died of coronavirus on April 8, told how her mum went above and beyond for those she cared for in the community.

Sales assistant Lisa Westwood, 40, says: “She loved her job and went the extra mile for all her clients.

“She did their shopping and went to the Post Office for them so they didn’t have to go outside.

“She always put everyone else before herself.”

Key workers who perished on the front line

While offices closed their doors and millions settled into a new reality of working from home, hardworking key workers were unable to shelter inside.

The cost of keeping the country going was high – with many paying with their lives. 

Among them were London bus drivers Ranjith Chandrapala, 64, Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, 36, Nadir Nur, 48, and Kenneth Yeboah, 55.

Convenience store owner and dad-of-two Raj Aggarwal, 51, from Oadby, Leicester, died from Covid in Glenfield Hospital on April 9, just days after dropping off supplies for NHS workers there.

His wife Sunita, 49, says: “He delivered tea, coffee and biscuits to say thank you for their hard work.

“That was Raj all over. He always put himself out for other people.”

Selfless Raj, who ran a Spar and a coffee shop, also refused to charge emergency workers when they came into his store.

More than 200 people – many of them customers – stood on their doorsteps to pay their respects at his funeral earlier this year.

The Association of Convenience Stores has since created a new trophy in his name to be awarded to retailers who have been exceptional in community retailing and helping their fellow retailers.

Sunita, mum to daughter Ambika, 24, and son Varun, 21, urged others to take the virus seriously.

She says: “It’s been a really horrific experience. I would not wish it on anyone.

“The children have been amazing and so strong. They’ve had to grow up a lot in the past ten months.”

Help for heroes

In honour of our NHS heroes Herculean efforts, in April the Sun launched its Who Cares Wins Appeal to raise £1million for care packages, food and vital equipment for brave nurses, doctors and NHS staff on the Covid-19 front line.

I owe everything to the NHS – so many of us do

In less than a month, we had hit our ambitious target. The PM spoke on behalf of the nation when, in May, he wrote in the Sun: “I owe everything to the magnificent men and women of our NHS. So many of us do.”

Restrictions were later eased in July but as cases began to rise, the Government unveiled its three-tier Covid restrictions for England in mid October – before announcing a second UK lockdown would come into effect on November 5.

The November lockdown appeared to be effective in the north of England but infection rates continued to increase in the south-east.

It was discovered a new, more virulent variant of the virus was likely to blame and when the national lockdown was lifted on December 2, cases rocketed.

Deaths have doubled in less than three months since 50k

Deaths from Covid-19 have doubled in less than three months since the UK death toll surpassed 50,000 on November 10.

Last week, the PM warned the UK Covid variant may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible and 30 per cent more deadly.

MY VIEW Louise Curtis, author of A Nurse’s Story: My Life in A&E During the Covid Crisis

THE start of the pandemic was very different to where we are now. In the beginning, we didn’t know much about the virus or the best way to treat patients. We were trying to go on the best evidence we had.

But there was more support from the public and that sense of camaraderie.

Now, we are seeing much younger patients becoming incredibly ill and some are dying, which is awful to see.

It makes you feel much more vulnerable when you see people the same age or younger than you and how much life they still have to live.

We are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s ending up in intensive care. For my colleagues on intensive care, positivity can be scarce because, despite all our efforts, not all patients improve to make it off a ventilator. 

Recently, a Covid patient died but none of their relatives were able to be at their bedside because the entire family had tested positive for the virus and had to isolate.

Their last memory of their loved one was seeing them collapse after suffering a cardiac arrest.

I don’t leave a patient alone if I know they are in the final stages of life if a family member is not there because I don’t want people to be on their own.

In A&E, you don’t have time to process your emotions. You might have a particularly difficult case but five minutes later you have got to move onto the next patient.

You compartmentalise what you went through and carry on with your shift.

The morale at work is low. I think staff are really struggling, particularly with their mental health.

This is definitely the hardest thing we have ever faced in the NHS.

In intensive care, normally you have one nurse to every patient but now it is three patients to one nurse.

At my hospital, we are using whatever space we have for intensive care patients, including theatres and recovery bays – wherever we can fit a ventilator beside a bed.

But there are not enough intensive care nurses. Staff from other departments are helping wherever they can.

I haven’t been able to because we unfortunately still have everyone coming into A&E. People are still having strokes, crashing their cars and suffering domestic abuse. Those things don’t stop.

We have hit 100,000 deaths, which is an horrendous number. But it’s not just a number. These are grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers who had many more years left to live.

Yet, they are no longer with us. People need to be respectful of this and follow the rules. It’s not forever. 

NHS close to breaking point

As the nation is set to enter its fourth week of a third national lockdown, frontline NHS workers describe the immense strain they are under.

Earlier this month, Professor Rupert Pearse, an intensive care consultant at the Royal London Hospital, said that rising Covid-19 admissions meant there was now one nurse to every three patients rather than the normal one-to-one.

Dr David Nicholl, a Consultant Neurologist at Birmingham City Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, said staff are working in unprecedented conditions.

He told The Sun: “I’ve been a consultant for nearly 20 years and have never had to treat patients in the way we are now.

“I’ve had end of life care video conversations with people over Whatsapp while I’m wearing full PPE, speaking to a patient’s family about end of life preservation and whether to resuscitate is a nuanced conversation and they’re having to be done remotely and fast.

“It’s not right.”

End of life calls over Whatsapp in full PPE…it's not right

More than 7.4 million people have now received their first dose of a vaccine, while more than 470,000 people have had their second.

But Dr Nicholl added: “The news about the vaccines being rolled out has helped, but make no mistake, we’re still very much in the eye of the storm.”

Forced to say goodbye over video

Sian Melonie, 36, is just one of many who have been unable to spend precious final moments with their loved one due to restrictions on hospital visitors in a bid to try to reduce the spread of the virus.

She was forced to say goodbye to her dad Graham, 66, from Milton Keynes, Bucks, via a video call after her and her siblings Lisa, 39, and twins Lily and Jack, 21, had to make the difficult decision who would sit at his bedside.

Graham, a retired plant manager, died on January 9 and his family were unable to hold a wake after his funeral yesterday (Friday).

Marketing account manager Sian, who lives in Stratford, East London, says: “It was really sudden. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that he’s gone.

“The staff in the hospital were incredible. One of the nurses was in tears. I don’t know how they do it day in, day out. It must destroy them.

“They said they are now seeing younger people in their 20s and 30s fighting for their lives.

“It feels all that more terrifying this time, that it can get anyone and so quickly.”

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