A-Z

Alisha & Rita

Brief Outline:

Arjun - father to Alisha, and husband to Rita - died of Covid during the second wave of the pandemic. Whilst he initially seemed to do well on non-invasive ventilation, he declined over a period of three weeks.

Time of interview June 2021

Background:

Alisha (23) works as an Implementation Manager. She lives with her mother Rita (52). Ethnicity: British-Indian.

More about me...

Arjun, husband to Rita and father to Alisha, was a healthy man in his fifties. He was fit and had no underlying health conditions. He had been careful not to contract Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. The family felt they had no particular reason to be worried about his health, particularly in light of the government information of who was at risk of contracting and of dying of Covid.

Alisha recounts that in December 2020, after Christmas with the family, her mother started to feel unwell. She tested positive for Covid. Alisha and her father had no symptoms at the time. They did get tested a few days later, and these results also came back positive.

Whilst Alisha and her mother were quick to recover, Alisha’s dad remained extremely exhausted. He had a high fever which would not go down. They tried all kinds of possible home remedies – mostly steam to clear his airways. Because Arjun was not coughing the family did not think there was particular cause for concern.

The NHS followed up with a couple of calls to see if the family was at home. Rita feels that this was done mostly out of wanting to see whether they were isolating, rather than from a caring point of view. She feels strongly that these calls would have been a good occasion to provide information, based on existing data at the time, regarding critical points in the trajectory of a Covid patient: What could they do at home? When to seek medical attention? When to call 111, or 999? As few of these calls provided such information, these questions were left for the family to grapple with on their own, until a family friend recommended buying oximeter. Rita and Alisha believes NHS should have given Oximeter to any family member testing positive on day one, should have educated the family to record the readings and given the family advice on when to raise concerns should the readings drop below certain levels. She feels that her father’s life could have been saved had this been done then.

Alisha and her mother started to measure Arjun’s oxygen levels. These fluctuated between 84 and 95. Alisha took pictures to be able to document these fluctuations. After 1 or 2 days (in early January), she and her mother decided to call 111 (4 Jan). Looking back, they wondered whether they should have done it sooner. When the paramedics arrived, Arjun’s oxygen levels were relatively high (94). They were not sure whether to take Arjun in: they felt there was 50% chance of him recovering in hospital, and 50% chance of him recovering at home. Alisha showed the paramedics the pictures of the fluctuating oxygen levels. Rita told them she had seen him decline. The paramedics said that at the time, the hospitals were “not the best place to be”; if he could stay home, he would be better off. When Arjun decided to stay at home, Alisha and Rita were not convinced this was the best thing to do, as both of them had seen him deteriorating and they were worried about him.

Admission to hospital

A few hours later, when Arjun’s oxygen levels dropped again, Rita called another ambulance. When the paramedics came, they agreed to admit him. He was initially admitted on a general ward for Covid patients. Alisha emphasises that this was at the peak of the second wave, and that “he was lucky to get a bed within a couple of hours”.

At this point the family was in touch via texts, as Arjun was able to type. But one hour later Rita and Alisha got a call from a doctor explaining that Arjun had had a scan which showed pneumonia in both his lungs. For Alisha and Rita this was hard to believe, as Arjun had not had had trouble breathing. The doctors were positive, and thought he was doing well and could go home in a couple of days. They prescribed Arjun steroids (Dexamethasone) and antibiotics to treat the infection. Arjun was also given oxygen via a mask, which helped him breathe.

But then things took a very different turn. Arjun’s breathing got worse, and his oxygen dependency increased. As he found it harder to speak on the phone, Rita and Alisha kept the calls to a minimum to preserve his energy. After a total of 10 days on the ward, Arjun’s reliance on oxygen via the mask had increased so much, that the doctors informed the family that they were going to have to admit him to ICU, just in case he was going to need more support. This really shocked Rita and Alisha; it was hard to understand how he had deteriorated. Eventually, he did need to be intubated. Alisha and her father had a videocall. This is the last time Alisha spoke with her father.

Communication with ICU staff

Doctors called them daily. The family feels the doctors were generally good in relaying information. But at times there were doctors who lacked communication skills and empathy, and things were not always explained clearly. After some calls, Rita and Alisha did not know what next steps were going to be, or what possible steps could be taken if Arjun’s condition would deteriorate. This caused them to be anxious and stressed and meant that some nights they did not sleep. They feared that his life support would be switched off. Alisha noted that doctors started to say “he is dying” early on in the ICU stay, which made Rita and Alisha feel like they were going on statistics, rather than just on how Arjun was doing. Alisha and Rita were invested in staying hopeful for his survival.

Arjun was proned in ICU. This initially seemed to be helping, but then failed to show any benefit. Whilst Rita and Alisha took his being ‘stable’ to be as a good sign, the doctors made it clear that they felt differently: being stable meant neither decline nor improvement, so it could still go either way. The proning was initially planned for five days, then continued for another two, and then discontinued when it was proving more risky than beneficial. Alisha and Rita then realised that “doing everything”, as they had been trying to do, could kill him, so they understood why the proning had to be discontinued.

By this time, Arjun’s his kidneys had failed, making him reliant on a dialysis machine. When clinical staff cleaned the machine, thus temporarily taking Arjun off it, he seemed to pass urine on his own, and so it was decided that he would not be put back on the machine. But then his kidneys failed again, and yet he was not put back on the machine. This made Rita and Alisha angry. But the doctors insisted again that he was dying, and that now it was time for them to come into hospital.

(Digital) End-of-life visits

Because Alisha was still testing positive, she could not go to hospital to see her father. Her mother Rita went to the hospital alone while Alisha waited in the car park. Rita video-called Alisha and other family members when she was there, and they all prayed for him, hoping that he would hear, and that their prayers would be heard.

In the days that followed Alisha and her mother were afraid every time the phone rang. They were anxious that a call would bring bad news. But Arjun kept on pulling through. Stories on the news spoke of survivors, and so Alisha and Rita had hope. They researched online and in academic journals for things Arjun was suffering from, possible causes and what things were being tried in other clinical settings around the world. Alisha recalls, “We were becoming doctors ourselves”, and recounts how they took that information back to the doctors in the hospital, hoping to make a difference.

Arjun developed a secondary infection. The doctors were communicating with colleagues elsewhere to gain an understanding of what they could possibly do. They increased Arjun’s steroids despite considerable risk to his health if he were to survive, a risk they deemed worth taking. But Arjun nevertheless deteriorated. The doctors told Alisha and Rita once again that he was not going to make it, and that Alisha should come in to say her goodbyes.

Alisha tested negative this time, went to the hospital and saw her father there. Her mother came with her. Alisha describes this visit as both “lucky”, in the sense that she still got to see him, and “scary” as her father’s body had changed in such a way that he no longer looked like her father. He passed away on the day after she saw him, in the beginning of February. On that day, Rita and Alisha were not allowed to come in again. Instead, they were connected with the hospital via videoconferencing; they spoke to him and prayed.

Bereavement

There was no bereavement follow-up from the hospital; both mother and daughter received counselling via work, but this was not specific to bereavement, nor did they find it particularly helpful. They told us that the sadness and bitterness about it all remains. There is also so much to arrange - the funeral, things to do with the house, and companies requiring various bits of paperwork over and over again – that Rita and Alisha both felt that there had not yet been time to grieve. Arjun’s death still feels unreal and unfair to them, and the ‘what-if questions’ stay with them: What if they had received advice on when to be concerned and call for help? What if they had called an ambulance earlier? What if the first ambulance had taken Arjun to hospital?

When asked what could be improved, both feel that some doctors could speak with more empathy with family members, and that the NHS could do better in providing information on critical points in the illness trajectory, based on data that has now been collected – perhaps if people know how and when to act at home, more lives could be saved. Both feel that bereavement services need to be better.

 

Alisha found it hard to grasp why Covid had affected her father, who had had no underlying health conditions, yet died from Covid in intensive care.

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Alisha found it hard to grasp why Covid had affected her father, who had had no underlying health conditions, yet died from Covid in intensive care.

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How can a man who has no underlying health conditions, has no problems, is completely healthy, be affected by Covid, to even go into the hospital and now to be in the ICU. I was just telling my mum this is ridiculous, this is just not real, it’s just not possible. You look at the statistics and you think that yeah, if you’ve got heart problems, if you’ve got diabetes, if you’ve got things like that, you’re at higher risk, you’re more likely to pass away. You’re more likely to have to go to the hospital and need such intervention because you’ve got some problems in your body anyway. So, it was like why is my dad having to be in the ICU when he’s so healthy, which is a question that me and mum still ask ourselves, like why?

Because you don’t hear it, you don’t hear the healthy people having to go to such extents, and now he’s not even alive anymore, which I still don’t understand, and I don’t think anyone will get answers to these kinds of questions because we just don’t know about how Covid affects the body. Hopefully one day we’ll know more, but it’s like how will that help me and my mum? Because he’s not alive anymore, you can’t do an autopsy on his body anymore to see why things happened to him, so even if we do get answers in the future, we’ll still always be wondering what happened to my dad and how he died. It’s just like there’s no one time that we will get an answer I think, and it’s just learning. I do believe in research and all of that, and that’s why I’m here really. I do believe it’s always going to help. But I just wish that he didn’t have to go through that.

 

A friend of Alisha’s father recommended the use of an oximeter.

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A friend of Alisha’s father recommended the use of an oximeter.

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But it was like one day went, two days went and he’s not getting better. The problem was he was having a very high fever of 39 degrees and it was just not going down. Me and my mum were doing cold sponging on him, we were giving him all the home remedies, everything you can do, take some steam, try to clear the airways, maybe that would help. He wasn’t really having any breathing problems even as such. He wasn’t even coughing. The majority of the symptoms that you would associate with Covid he wasn’t really having, and that’s why we weren’t thinking that it would be so serious.

But eventually then, and I think this is quite lucky, one of his friends is a doctor and he actually called to check up how my dad was, and he said to my dad, you need to get an oximeter, we need to check your oxygen saturations. We ordered one straight away and the next day we checked, and it was quite low. It was about 87. At that time, I think everyone was still learning about Covid, even though this was in December, January, there was still a lot that we hadn’t learned about Covid. The government didn’t tell us you should get an oximeter, you should use an oximeter if you’ve got Covid. We didn’t know that. It’s only luckily that my dad’s friend told us this, it’s something that’s very important for you to have if you have Covid. So, we monitored his oxygen levels for a while. I would say probably just one or two days really. It was low. It was 87, so we called 111, and they said, yeah, that’s quite low, but it’s quite normal for Covid patients to have oxygen saturations of about 90 per cent, but it’s still a cause for concern, keep checking. His oxygen was fluctuating I think between 84 to 87 to sometimes 95, and the fluctuations were quite strange, because obviously the human body should have 99, 98, technically speaking even 100, because that’s how healthy you should be. When we saw that it’s just not getting better, we thought okay, it’s high time he needs to go to the hospital.

 

Alisha and her parents got tested when her mother felt unwell, and they were all positive.

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Alisha and her parents got tested when her mother felt unwell, and they were all positive.

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I’m interested in your story of this, your experience. So, if you could tell me when it all began from your perspective that would be wonderful?

Sure. So, it all started, I guess the very beginning was end of December. So obviously we had a good Christmas and all of that, it was really good, and the day after Christmas…I guess Christmas was the last day we actually had as a family. My dad was okay at the time, and we were all together. Then I think on Boxing Day my mum started to feel a bit unwell. She was not feeling good. She thought that okay, something’s going on, and just to be on the safe side…because my mum’s not the type of person that usually would say that she’s not feeling well, so we thought okay, it’s best to just check out if it’s Covid or anything like that. So, she went and got tested and, she was positive. So, we thought okay, if she’s positive, we’ve been at home for such a long time, and even Christmas the day before and everything, it’s very likely that me and my dad could possibly have that, though we had no symptoms at the time. But then one or two days later we also started to get symptoms, me and my dad together at the same time, and we went and got tested. If I remember correctly, we tested positive on 30 December, or 31st, one of those. I think me and my mum were quite quick to recover. We weren’t feeling great, obviously. We were tired quite a lot. But my dad was just extremely exhausted.

 

Alisha’s father eventually agreed to being taken to hospital.

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Alisha’s father eventually agreed to being taken to hospital.

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So, the ambulance then came again and this time they noticed that his oxygen is dropping, and this time they gave him… I think the paramedic’s protocol is that you need to give oxygen three times and see whether they desaturate, and each time they do it for two minutes. So, they gave him oxygen and each time they did it he desaturated within a couple of seconds which was showing that his body is not strong enough or there’s something wrong inside that he’s not able to keep that level of saturation. That’s what prompted them to say okay, yeah, he definitely needs medical attention, he needs to be given a higher intervention of oxygen in the hospital.

Obviously, my dad being my dad, he likes to be in the comfort of his house, he doesn’t want to go to hospital. Especially when you’re seeing so many deaths in hospital from Covid you just don’t want to go to the hospital. It’s the place you just want to avoid. But we were like look, Dad, you’re going to be fine, because you have no underlying health conditions, there’s nothing wrong with you. He’s not a smoker, he doesn’t drink alcohol, he’s completely fit and healthy, and he’s only 52. So when you look at the statistics of Covid deaths and those being affected adversely he just doesn’t fit into any of the categories, so me and my mum were comfortable, we were like, yeah, you need to go to hospital and that’s the place you will get better. He agreed. He said, yeah, okay, I’ll go, it might just take one or two days and I’ll be back.

 

Alisha and Rita were shocked to learn the severity of their father’s and husband’s illness.

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Alisha and Rita were shocked to learn the severity of their father’s and husband’s illness.

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When he got to the hospital, luckily at the time it was the peak of the wave and very lucky that he actually got a bed within a couple of hours the same day, near us actually, in a hospital only 15 minutes away. Whereas at that time people were having to go to [a hospital in another city] and they were having to travel to very far cities because there was no beds, no space. I think my dad was lucky in that sense that he got a space.

So, on the night of the 4th of January, he was admitted into just a hospital in a normal ward and they gave him a higher level of oxygen intervention. It wasn’t that high. He was on about ten to 20 per cent supply of oxygen, and it was just a normal mask like the one he had when he was at home, just the standard oxygen mask, nothing too bad. They did a few tests on him and things like that and they realised that his kidneys… my dad sent me a message. He was able to type, which was really good. He was still able to contact us every now and again, and he told us that the doctors had done some tests and they’re saying my kidneys have been affected by Covid and they will start giving me the medication for that and everything soon. That’s it. That’s all we heard. He was on the oxygen, and we were just waiting for more information. Then not even an hour later he called us, and he said that the doctors have done a scan and they have found that I’ve got pneumonia in both of my lungs. Me and my mum just didn’t expect that. We were just so shocked. I can’t even explain it to you. We were crying and we were so shocked, because we were like what, there’s nothing that suggested that he would have pneumonia in his lungs. I just couldn’t understand.

Then I started thinking okay, when my dad was at home there was sometimes when he was coughing. Towards the end, before he went to the hospital he was coughing constantly, and I was like, Dad, you just need to take steam, there’s probably just a bit of chest congestion, that’s probably it. But now I understand that it was probably because his lungs were starting to get very damaged and that’s why he was coughing so much. But when he told us that pneumonia had spread into both of his lungs, we were so worried. We were just like this is shocking. I didn’t expect it. Mum didn’t expect it.

 

Alisha’s father deteriorated over the course of 10 days on the ward and was then admitted to intensive care.

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Alisha’s father deteriorated over the course of 10 days on the ward and was then admitted to intensive care.

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I think that was still when he was in the normal ward. I think he was ten days into the ward. So, he was admitted on the 4th and then I think it was on 16th of January he was taken to the ICU. Because his oxygen got to the point where it was 100 per cent reliance, which means your body is not able to breathe on its own anymore. And it needs 100 per cent oxygen to be put in, and that was a very big concern, because that just shows that something is really going terribly wrong for him to need that type of intervention, that’s a very big thing. That was I think the turning point for me and especially my mum, because we were just like this is just shocking. How can a man who has no underlying health conditions, has no problems, is completely healthy, be affected by Covid, to even go into the hospital and now to be in the ICU. I was just telling my mum this is ridiculous, this is just not real, it’s just not possible. You look at the statistics and you think that yeah, if you’ve got heart problems, if you’ve got diabetes, if you’ve got things like that, you’re at higher risk, you’re more likely to pass away. You’re more likely to have to go to the hospital and need such intervention because you’ve got some problems in your body anyway. So, it was like why is my dad having to be in the ICU when he’s so healthy, which is a question that me and mum still ask ourselves, like why?

So, the doctors, whenever they were coming for their daily checks on my dad, they were saying you’re doing really well, at this rate you will go back home in the next four days, next one week. First it was four days and then a couple of days later his reliance on the oxygen machine was starting to increase. So initially he was just on the standard one, standard home oxygen machine, but then slowly day by day it was increasing 20 per cent reliance, then 40 per cent, then 60 per cent, then 80, until eventually he was on 100 per cent reliance, which was a really bad thing because we thought he would get better, and he thought he would get better. When the doctors are telling you you’re doing well and you see yourself getting worse you can only imagine how much of an effect that would have on my dad, especially because he’s a very emotional person.

 

Alisha spoke to her father before he was intubated, which later turned out to be the last time they spoke.

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Alisha spoke to her father before he was intubated, which later turned out to be the last time they spoke.

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But when he did get into the ICU and he was so scared… he was so scared. He called us before he got onto the ventilator and he said, they’re ventilating me now. Me and my mum were just saying oh, it’s okay, don’t worry. We were trying to be all happy and trying to be positive. It’s okay, Dad, people get better when they go on ventilators, that’s just why you need it. You’ll be fine, you’ll be back in a few days. Those few days didn’t come for him. Can you imagine how scared he must have been thinking oh, I’m telling my wife and my child that I’m going on a ventilator now, but this could be the last moment I’ll be seeing the world, or I’ll be seeing anything. It’s just so scary when you think about it. I just can’t imagine the things he was thinking at that time.

He was really sad, because I know when he called us, he said in ten days if I’m not better just take away all the consent, just let me die. It was like what is making my dad say that? Why has he become like that? Why is he saying just take away consent if I’m not better in ten days? It was just scary, and me and my mum never understood why he was saying that. But he did. I don’t have any words to explain that really. But they did end up ventilating him. That was the last conversation I had with my dad. He did tell us I don’t want to die in the hospital, can you please take me out of hospital, and me and my mum just kept saying, don’t worry, you’ll be fine. All we were saying is you’re going to be fine. Because we genuinely did think he would be fine. Now we think about it, and we think… he kept telling us I don’t want to die in hospital, and that’s what we let him do. As a family it affects you in a very big way.

 

Alisha and her mother felt that the ‘stability’ of their father and husband was positive, but the doctors explained that it could still go both ways.

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Alisha and her mother felt that the ‘stability’ of their father and husband was positive, but the doctors explained that it could still go both ways.

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It was just like every time me and my mum got some level of happiness there was always something that would come and ruin it again. It was like you can’t be happy. So, when we saw that he started to get better, he started to stay at that level, but there was no improvement but no deterioration, which me and my mum were fine with. We were like, okay, as long as he’s stable there’s nothing to worry about. If we’re not seeing improvement, okay, that’s fine, but we’re not seeing any deterioration, which might just mean his body needs to take its own time. So, me and my mum were just like okay, that’s positive, that’s good. But when we kept telling the doctors that they were like this is not a good sign. It doesn’t mean that he’s getting better. Things could go any direction. He could get better, or he could get worse. And obviously they didn’t get better, they only got worse.

The following day – this was two days into his ICU admission…we used to get daily calls from doctors. We were told not to call the doctors because they were under so much pressure, and they literally had one person doing all the phone calls after the doctor rounds to update families. We got told that his kidneys had failed, and that was also such a big shock. We’d just started to accept that he’s been put on a ventilator. How did his kidneys fail? It was just so shocking to me and my mum. How can his kidneys fail now? If he was being given the right medicine, then how are his kidneys failing? We just kept questioning, and the doctors said that sometimes it just happens. We don’t know really, that’s the problem. We don’t know how Covid affects you. He said that we’ve seen the inpatients that have developed Covid pneumonia, it is affecting more than just one organ. The main problem was his lungs that were inflamed because of the pneumonia and the Covid, but we are seeing that people are getting affected on their kidneys and all sorts of other organs, but very commonly kidneys. So, we could see okay, it’s not just him then, there are loads of other people who have been in a similar situation, and it’s being seen that he’s getting affected that way.

 

Alisha tried not to ring her dad in hospital and texted him instead, as to not exhaust him.

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Alisha tried not to ring her dad in hospital and texted him instead, as to not exhaust him.

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Us as family, we didn’t used to bother him too much because we wanted him to focus on his breathing and his recovery, but whenever we did speak to him that would probably be maximum two to three minutes a day. If we spoke for ten minutes it was like wow, I’ve spoken to my dad for such a long time today. But understandably he was just too tired to speak.

So, he would call you?

Yeah. Initially he was able to text. It was mostly us calling him. He wasn’t very interested in calling. The problem is me and my mum tried to give him more space, whereas other family members were calling him quite a lot and calling him quite often, so he was getting tired, so it was like he’s having to repeat the same thing to loads of other people, so us as close family we didn’t want him to feel pressured. And we did tell other people please don’t call him so much because he doesn’t need to talk to anyone right now, he just needs to focus on himself, and if you need updates on how he’s doing we’ll give you those updates because we speak to doctors every day. But it’s very hard to explain, sometimes emotions take over, which is also understandable. So, he was very limited. He used to text, but even his texting was starting to get bad. He was taking 15 minutes to write one message. It was just not going the right way.

 

Alisha was asked to come to the hospital to see her father. Her mother came with her.

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Alisha was asked to come to the hospital to see her father. Her mother came with her.

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I was really happy that I got to see my dad, because I saw him on 1 February, and he passed away on 2 February. Some people say oh, he was waiting for you to come, hold his hand and talk to him. I hope that’s true, because if it is then I’d be so happy. Until this day it seems like a dream.

To be honest with you, when I saw him, I couldn’t really recognise him. I just thought my dad has changed so much in the past three weeks or one month, I can’t recognise him. Obviously, his eyes are closed and he’s poorly, but I couldn’t tell that this was my dad. Holding his hand was just scary. They said that his hands were so pulpy because he’s boated because everything is just staying inside now, nothing it’s coming out. He wouldn’t excrete, urinate, digest food, and all of that is just not coming out, it’s just staying inside the body and that’s why. Water needs to go somewhere so it starts to go into the entire body. When I was holding his hand, I just felt so scared. It’s a very odd feeling. It’s very difficult to explain that feeling. We still said it’s going to be okay. It was like everything you could tell me wrong I was still like it’s okay, doesn’t matter, it’s going to be fine.

But I think this is very natural. When people are telling you he’s going to die you don’t want to accept it and you’ll do everything to tell the other person that they’re wrong. But we realised at that point when we went into the ICU unit that everyone is working so hard. Obviously, we will be a bit bitter, we’ll be a bit cruel because we’re losing our loved one at such a young age and it’s not fair and that’s why we’re so crude about it. But when you see how hard the staff are working and how much they’re doing you really have a different perspective and you think well, okay, they gave him every chance. It’s got to be affecting him really bad for him to die now because there’s nurses always staring at him, always looking at him, always checking his levels, always doing this, doing that. So, we never felt like he was in the wrong hands. He was always in the right hands. But I guess the problem is just that we feel unlucky. That’s the biggest thing. We just feel like this is not fair on him.

 

Alisha still tested positive for Covid when the doctors asked her and her mother to come to the hospital, so her mother went alone and video called her.

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Alisha still tested positive for Covid when the doctors asked her and her mother to come to the hospital, so her mother went alone and video called her.

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They started to tell us he’s dying, he’s dying. They started to tell us that quite early, to be honest, in his ICU stay. We just kept saying why are you saying he’s going to die? He’s not going to die. You need to be positive, because he’s in your care, he’ll be fine. He’s got no reason to die. He’s a completely healthy person, he’s not going to die. But every time they would call us for an update they would tell us he’s a dying man, you need to see him.

Once we got to the point where we were so scared. We’re trying to be positive but at the same time we’re aware that we have to be practical. What if he does pass away? What’s going to happen? I was still positive with Covid, so they didn’t let me come and visit my dad in hospital, but they let my mum visit because she wasn’t positive. So, she went to visit him, I think it was one of the Sundays, because they were just telling us he’s not well. She definitely wanted to see him, and luckily, they gave us the opportunity. A lot of people didn’t get to see their loved ones in the hospital, so at least my mum felt very lucky that at least she’s able to go and be with him, even if it’s for a little while.

I think it’s such a difficult one because for my mum to be there on her own, when I was watching her, it was such a different experience. Three weeks ago, we were all so happy, we were all so normal. My dad was completely normal. And now she’s here sitting with him because we’re being told he’s going to die, and I’m watching my mum talk to my dad and try to revive him in some way that medicine can’t. It was just such an unreal experience, and I just felt so bad. I’m an only child, I don’t have siblings, so for me my dad was more like a brother, more like a friend.

It’s just a very different and unique relationship, and I couldn’t believe that I’m being told that he’s dying. People go through that at young ages, and I never thought that would be me, I never thought that would be my mum. It was just very unreal.

But then even though they said that he’s dying, mum went to see him. I spoke to him over the video call and tried to give him good vibes and stuff like that. But the doctor said he could die any minute. He might not even be alive for the next couple of hours, and that’s why we’re telling you to come and visit.

 

One day after Rita and Alisha had visited Arjun in ICU, he died whilst his family member spoke to him via a videocall.

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One day after Rita and Alisha had visited Arjun in ICU, he died whilst his family member spoke to him via a videocall.

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So, we got woken up at around 12 in the afternoon. Actually, no, sorry, it was 11AM in the morning, and the doctor said his oxygen is fluctuating a lot, this oxygen saturation that is, fluctuating quite a lot, it’s dropping to 60 per cent even though he’s on 100 per cent oxygen. Sometimes it goes back up to 80. It’s dropping really low. The lowest it’s been is 40 per cent, and that’s critical. Then they started saying that beside his oxygen his blood pressure is fluctuating a lot, and that’s very scary, because if his blood pressure is fluctuating that means that his heart was starting to get affected, and that’s when they said that we really don’t think that he’s going to make it and we would advise you to join on video call ASAP because he might not make it another five minutes, he might not even be there. That’s when me and my mum rushed downstairs and switched on the video and the hospital connected us. I can’t remember the timings exactly, but we spoke to them, and we got connected and we spoke to my dad, tried to say what’s going on, you’re so strong, you need to get better. We were just hoping that he could hear us.

That hope was based on one of my friends whose dad was also in the ICU and she said that her dad had told her that he could actually hear what she was saying when he was sedated. So, we thought, okay, someone is able to hear, so that means that maybe whatever we’re telling my dad he will be able to hear us. That was our hope. We just gave him everything we could. “You’re going to be fine.” Every single positive, every motivational thing we could do. That was for about four hours constantly talking and talking and talking. We were talking to my grandma who lives in India and also trying to get her to give some motivational speech to my dad by connecting them. Anyone. Not just me and my mum, but also trying to get the close people to him to speak to him, maybe he would hear their voice and just get better and start showing some recovery. During that four hour period, because the blood pressure was dropping and going back up and dropping, and at one point it was going up slowly. At that point we thought oh, see, you know what I mean, his blood pressure is starting to improve, and if it’s improving that’s a good sign. Even at that point we still kept saying blood pressure’s going back up, that’s a good thing.

We got to a point where his blood pressure was actually 40 by 20, and that’s very critical. His heart is unable to sustain things.

It got to a point where the nurse was standing next to my dad watching the monitor, and they deliberately moved the monitor screen away from our camera because they know that I always look at the monitor.

But then it got a point where the nurse just stared at us, and we looked at the nurse and she put her fingers on his pulse and she was saying that I can feel a very faint pulse. Me and my mum were just quite shocked. We didn’t know what to say. Then she was holding his hand and stroking his head just so that he feels some sort of physical touch, because if he really is passing away, we don’t want him to feel like he’s on his own or no one’s with him. That’s something that I really appreciated. They could have very easily just said oh, yeah, he’s just dying, and not do anything about it. But if I was there or if my mum was there that’s what we would be doing, we’d be holding his hand and just being with him, and that’s what they did for us. Then she just said now I can’t feel a pulse, and unfortunately, he’s not alive anymore. I just couldn’t believe it when they said that he passed away.

I just told the nurse, can you please just check again because it might just be you’re not feeling it properly, please check again. What does it say on the monitor? I said, what’s his oxygen saturation, what’s his blood pressure? Then that’s when they said that there’s no information coming up on the monitor. That’s when I had no words, because if there’s nothing on the monitor that means there’s nothing going on in his body and he had flat lined. So that’s when I just kept saying, I think about three times to the nurse please check again, just check again and check again. Eventually she said I can’t feel anything now. She kept apologising, which she shouldn’t have because it’s not her fault. At that point me and my mum still kept talking to my dad as if he was alive even although we knew that he’s not alive anymore. We still just kept speaking and we just ended up crying a lot. Then we had to break the news to the whole family, and that was very difficult because nobody ever expected that. Nobody ever expected that.

It was unbelievably difficult to tell people my dad’s not alive anymore. Even for my mum. We were just staring at him on the video. It just looks like he’s sleeping. Even though he passed away, because he was still on the ventilator his chest was still going up and down and I was just telling the nurse he’s alive, he’s breathing. And the nurse said no, it’s because of the ventilator, it will keep expanding his lungs, and it looks like he’s breathing but he’s not. Then they said to us would we like to carry on talking to him and have some personal time before they take him to the mortuary I think it’s called. Yeah, to the mortuary I think. We said yes, and they didn’t disturb us. They actually let us speak to him for about three more hours. I was talking to him like he could hear me. It didn’t seem like he’s gone. Literally one minute he’s alive and one minute he’s not. It just didn’t seem real.

They said to us would you like to talk to him while he’s still got all the equipment on him or would you like us to call you back in half an hour and we’ll shave his beard, make him look presentable, take everything off him, and then you can speak to him. My mum and me decided that we would like that, for him to be groomed a little bit and then speak to him. Then they called us back and they had shaved his beard off and everything, and all the equipment was off and he was just there. Again, just didn’t seem like he was gone. Just talking and talking. Again, sometimes we were just talking to him as if we were trying to convince him to come back. It’s just such a natural thing to do because you don’t think he’s not there. It’s just a very surreal experience and something I would never wish anyone to feel. It’s one of those brutal realities of life. But that was how it went. So, we were just woken up and then spoke to him, and then he passed away, and we carried on speaking to him.

But very luckily we actually managed to see him before he was cremated. So, I actually got to touch him and hold him, and it felt very different. Because obviously you can imagine because of how bad Covid was at that time there was huge waiting lists for funerals, so we didn’t actually get a funeral. The funeral didn’t happen until… ten days later, so he had to be put in a freezer. When he was taken to the funeral directors’ place and we got to see him for a last time, touch him, because he was given all hygiene treatment and all of that, he was so different. He didn’t look the same.

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