Like everyone else, I was jubilant when I read the news that it looks like there’s a Covid vaccine on the way. Life could be back to normal by the spring, we're told.
However, as happy as I am, I know that life won’t be back to normal for my family, or the thousands of others who have lost someone in the pandemic.
My 83-year-old mum Doreen died of Covid in July, and the last months of her life were tough. She had lived alone since Dad passed away five years ago, which made shielding difficult and lonely. Usually I would drive the 11 miles to her house once or twice a week to see her – but since I am asthmatic I was under orders to shield too, and the most I could see of her was a wave from the front garden.
In July, she went into hospital for a problem with her legs. Unfortunately, while she was there, she caught coronavirus. That was so frustrating to hear: it’s meant to be a controlled environment, so how did it happen? Of course, we were not allowed to visit her because of the infection risk, but we kept in contact with regular phone calls.
Our family hoped for the best, and waited a few days to hear more news. Sadly, her condition worsened, and after about three or four days she started to suffer from Covid-induced confusion. She was no longer herself: she didn’t know who she was talking to when I called her, and was struggling to remember who she was. That was just really not like her – Mum had a strong personality and always knew exactly who she was and what she wanted.
I could tell this confusion was causing her real distress. It was exceptionally difficult to hear on the phone from doctors about how she would be upset and trying to pull out the tubes in her arms, or fight with nurses.
This went on for about a fortnight, with her getting more and more ill all the time. To their credit, the doctors and nurses tried everything they could to help her, including putting her on a ventilator at the end.
Even after she died, the Covid complications continued. Mum's body had to be kept in quarantine for a week in the mortuary, and we were told not to see her. Numbers were capped to around 20 at her funeral, which meant not even all of her family was able to come.
I have been left with a horrible feeling of guilt for not being able to spend more time with her in the last few months. I know logically that there’s nothing I could have done, since both of us were shielding, but the feeling is still there.
I know this has been a very tough year for everyone, but I have felt very annoyed by reports of people breaking the rules. It’s really not hard to wear a mask or wash your hands, and if more people were doing it then maybe Mum would never have caught Covid in the first place.
I am truly happy that lives will be saved by the vaccine, even if it came too late for Mum.
As told to Helen Chandler-Wilde