A widower who lost his wife to coronavirus weeks after she beat cancer has told of the anguish of allowing her life support to be turned off.
John Careless, from Sutton Coldfield, tragically lost his wife Valerie, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019 and underwent six months of chemotherapy.
The 62-year-old was told she was in remission in March last year and returned to work as an auxiliary nurse at the radiology and X-ray department at the town’s Good Hope Hospital.
On March 14, the mother-of-two developed a dry cough, which she disregarded as a side-affect from a recent pneumonia infection.
Due to the rise in coronavirus cases in the UK, the 62-year-old was forced to leave work and shield, but by then she had already caught the killer bug.
Valerie’s condition worsened and she developed chest pains but doctors put it down to a ‘nasty chest infection’ when she visited her GP on April 29.
Over the following weeks, Valerie was admitted to hospital twice and by May 19, she was in intesive care on a CPAP machine.
“After she was taken to hospital on May 9, I didn’t see her again properly”, said John.
“I Facetimed her but we probably spoke for only 15 seconds because she could hardly breathe. It was just a tough time. By this time people had started dying from it.”
Eventually, John was allowed in to see his wife of 36 years, wearing full PPE for a short visit.
He added: “I couldn’t stay longer than three minutes, it was too upsetting to see her like that. My anxiety, my worry, my concern went through the roof.
“Four days later they said I needed to come back and I pressured them to let my daughters come because they needed to see their mum.
“All three of us trooped up to the hospital and went in. At that point, she was on 100 per cent oxygen
“They said they might be at the end of what they could do.
“They didn’t use words like turn off machines but they said something like ‘let her go’.”
Val died surrounded by her husband and two daughters Emma, 30, and Naomi, 28, as the machines keeping her alive were switched off with their permission.
John added: “The nurse came in and we had said our goodbyes.
“I almost felt like I was killing her myself, giving permission to turn that switch off. We did it and within seconds she was gone.”
John was also made redundant from his job as a security guard on the same day.
He added: “I remember saying to myself I must have been bad in a previous life. It was a really difficult time and I obviously still miss her.
“I just don’t want the same thing to happen to other people. They need to follow the rules and a full lockdown was definitely needed.
“Too many families are being shattered by this horrible virus.”
Only seven people were allowed at Valerie’s funeral on June 16, but her cortege was driven through Good Hope Hospital where she had worked for 18 years.
Hundreds of her former colleagues turned out.
The father-of-two recalled: “She loved working there and there must’ve been 300 people all clapping.
“It really was phenomenal and really emotional. The hospital was fantastic throughout everything.
“She was lovely and very down to earth, always happy and smiling, she walked into a room and lit it up.
“All of her friends said they were going to miss her bonhomie and laughter.”