Losing someone you love is undoubtedly the hardest thing any of us will go through. But to lose someone during, or because of, the current COVID-19 pandemic is even more heart-breaking.
Chris Tiley and his daughters Meselle and Aimee share their moving story of how Covid-19 impacted their final weeks with their wife and mother Jacqui, who sadly passed away on 25th April, aged just 57.
Jacqui had been battling cancer for fourteen months but the COVID-19 pandemic meant she spent her final days in hospital without her family by her side and with no-one to hold her hand when she passed away.
Jacqui was referred to Hospice in July 2018, following her diagnosis of cervical cancer, which had spread to her lymph glands and lungs.
‘All of the team at the Hospice were amazing, I can’t put into words how brilliant Michelle was, she advised mam what she could claim when she wasn’t able to work anymore and helped sort out the paperwork. And since mam has died she has helped me loads, changing everything over that was in mam’s name.
Jayne the nurse was also lovely and helped mam understand what things meant when she would have test results or appointments with the doctor, she would call in to see mam just to check in on her, as mam wasn’t one to ring and ask for help’ Meselle recalls.
Jayne continued to support Jacqui and the family during lockdown, via phone calls and also visiting wearing full PPE.
Meselle said: ‘Mam was so ill for the last month that we couldn’t hug her or kiss her as she was so at risk of catching the virus and we were so afraid of giving it to her. I can’t put into words how difficult that was.’
On 16th April Jacqui’s condition deteriorated and so the family called Jayne, When Jayne arrived she suggested that Jacqui needed to go into hospital as she was having trouble breathing.
‘Mam had always said that when the time came she would go into hospital to die as our home was our happy place and she didn’t want us to have sad memories of her passing away here– that was mam always thinking of us. Although when she went in the ambulance that day we didn’t think she wouldn’t be coming home’, Messelle recalls.
‘I sat on the settee and cuddled her while we waited for the ambulance to come. I didn’t think it would be the last time I held her in my arms’, Chris recalls.
Due to the pandemic none of the family were able to go with Jacqui, she had to go alone in the ambulance and the family had to wait at home for news on how she was. They also weren’t allowed to visit her in hospital and so all contact was via the phone and FaceTime.
After being in hospital for a week with no physical visits from her family the hospital called to say that Jacqui had requested to see Chris. They would make arrangements for him to go in to see her, but he would have to wear full PPE.
It was during this visit that Chris was told by the doctors that Jacqui’s condition was deteriorating and it could be a matter of days that she had left. Chris had to shoulder this news on his own and then go home and tell his two daughters the earth shattering news.
The girls were totally devastated by the news but felt so helpless and they couldn’t be with their mum during her final days and also couldn’t help thinking of their mum being in hospital all alone.
Left totally distraught Meselle contacted the hospital who agreed that one other family member could go in to see Jacqui.
Meselle was the last person to see her mum alive in hospital and heartbreakingly, Aimee and Chris didn’t get to say their final goodbyes. Aimee recalls: ‘All I wanted was a cwtch from my friends but they couldn’t come round to the house – it was so hard. Losing a loved one is always hard but having to deal with it during the pandemic has been so much worse. If, by sharing our story, we can help just one other family then we will have done mam proud. Knowing the hospice is there to support us really has helped.’