BELOW is a heartrending word-for-word eyewitness account of a Zimbabwean here in the UK who lost his wife to COVID-19.
My wife spent 10 days dying.
She was 44 and she had worked for NHS here in England for over ten years.
She adored her husband and we had established a strong family life.
Without her we feel life is a lot less worth living. Jane was her name.
She arrived home around seven in the evening tired as always.
I had prepared super for the family.
As she opened the door I gave her a hug and a pet on her bum.
My son who is 111 giggled shyly and sped off to the table.
We sat on the table ready to dig in the sadza and beef stew I had prepared.
I noticed Jane was not herself.
I looked at her and saw she was sweating.
She signalled to me to give her water.
She could not drink it.
She then said Soko I cannot breathe.
I forgot about food.
I dialled 999, within ten minutes the ambulance crew had arrived.
By then Jane was slumped down on the floor. The house was filled with an unknown sense of fear.
I did not hear what was being said.
But I noticed the crew putting on face masks and stretchered my wife to the ambulance. They told me I could not go with her to the hospital.
I never new that was the last time I would be seeing my wife alive.
I stood by the door way as I saw the ambulance drive off with the blue lights flashing.
The whole night I could not sleep.
I woke up in the morning and drove straight to the hospital.
The gate was manned by police officers.
Normally it would have been the security guards.
The police were not compromising.
They told me to go home and that the hospital would contact me.
I felt dizzy and my legs could not summon the strength to push the car pedals.
I don’t know how I made it home.
My son was by the door with a barrage of questions is mum going to live?
Does she have Corona?
When is she coming home?
The hospital called around 12 midnight.
My wife was very ill. She was now being assisted to breathe.
My wife had never been bedridden before.
She only went to hospital to treat others but now the tables had turned.
The nurse on the other side of the phone said my wife had stopped eating then started slipping in and out of consciousness.
Soon she stopped drinking.For 10 days my son and I sat by the table holding hands.
No relative could come to see us we are in Lockdown.
How I wished to be near my wife at the time of her need moistening her lips with Vaseline. How I wished to be by her bedside telling her how much I loved her.
We had been together for 20 years this was not the farewell I expected.
Because it was Corona no visitations we’re allowed.
This is the time I felt the importance of being together.
I cherished the days I was together with my wife. We had plans to fly to Zimbabwe for her sisters wedding in August.
Every phone call would make me jump with anxiety.
You don’t know what to do.
We anxiously waited to hear from the hospital.
We had no choice but to trust the person from the hospital we did not know.
Messages from the hospital clicked in:
Evening Hospital report – as per the consultant :
Oxygen increased to 60 percent. Still on high pressure support from ventilation.
Cardiovascular system (heart) support required.
Kidney function not great
Gastro – NG feeding nill by mouth.
Therefore, not yet ready to come off ventilation
Illness can take 10 – 14 weeks on a ventilator. Will have to see progress over the few days.
One lung collapsed.
Slowly her breathing changed, became more ragged.
During the last few days, the tips of her fingers turned blue.
Her skin smelled different. Her breath gradually became a rasp, then a rattle.
It sounded awful the way the nurse reported.
We were sure she was in pain but we felt completely useless, powerless and vulnerable. The doctor could not reassure us.
Her organs were shutting down, one at a time.
My wife and I had not yet talked or planned about what we would do in the event that one of us died.
We had no plans for this, thus no idea of what she might have wanted.
It is true that human life is like mist, it just disappears, just like that.
The doctor said he could give her something that would make her sound better, but it would be more for us than for my wife.
Then the doctor called and said things were very bad.
The doctor said: “My job is about prolonging people’s lives. Anything I give to your wife now would simply be prolonging her death.”
When it finally came, death was quite sudden and absolutely unmistakable.
Those 10 days were hard.
Death is foreign to us.
We certainly don’t like talking about it.
But the call came, my wife was gone.
She died alone surrounded by strangers.
We never got to hear her last words.
Death became medicalised; a whole lot of taboos grew up around it, but there is never closure if one dies this way.
Part of me strongly believes my wife is still alive.
I looked at my son and I did not know how to tell him that his mother was gone.
I simply said to him son God has done his will.
He looked at me and said God’s will is great, when is mum coming home.
Tears ran down my cheeks.
The was no one coming to comfort me.
I had to be strong for my son.
I had really wanted my wife to be given a great send off.
But that was not to be.
Morgues are full and she had to be buried.
The rules were very clear, no more than five people at the burial.
And we had to maintain the social distance.
I have to struggle with my emotions.
I do not feel my wife was given a befitting sent off.
My heart bleeds but the trauma my son has gone through and will go through in all his life I cannot begin to imagine.
My son penned these words to his friends. I cried uncontrollably when I read the words.
“It was one cold winter night on that day mum got sick. She was taken from home with promise to come back.
My dad told me days later that mum was not coming back. She died at the place she had spent most of time in. Hospital. There is no one like mother to me. I know there is no one like mother to me. Dear God in heaven please look down upon me and my dad.”