A grieving husband has shared heartbreaking photos of the “final goodbye” with his nurse wife who died from coronavirus weeks after being given the all-clear from cancer.
John Careless, 64, said he wanted to release the distressing images of his wife Valerie’s last moments as a warning to people to follow lockdown rules.
Tragic Valerie, 62, died after contracting Covid-19 when she went back to work at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham having beat cancer just weeks earlier.
The auxiliary nurse in the radiology and X-ray department was sent home to shield due to her medical history after coronavirus cases began to rise in March.
But by then it was too late and she had already contracted the killer bug and she passed away at the hospital where she had worked for 20 years on June 6 last year.
Devastated John has now spoken for the first time about his wife’s death as a warning to other families who might not be taking the pandemic seriously.
John, of Sutton Coldfield, West Mids., said: “I sincerely hope this shocks people and if it changes one person’s opinion then her life will have meant something.
“Please believe Covid is real and it affects your life forever. Don’t let this happen to you or the people you love.
“People think ‘bad things won’t happen to me’ – well let me tell you, they do. I just don’t want others to go through the same thing as it has been extremely painful.
“It’s a virus and and it’s already mutated – it needs to be taken very seriously and we have to understand that and follow the rules.
“I know its upsetting but I want people to hear Val’s story in the hope I might be able to help others who might not be taking this outbreak that seriously.”
Valerie was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019 and underwent six months of gruelling chemotherapy before being given the all-clear in March last year.
But on March 14, she developed a dry cough but put it down to overcoming an earlier pneumonia infection.
After she developed chest pains, she went to her GP on April 29 where she was given antibiotics for what they believed was a “nasty chest infection.”
But her condition deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed and she was taken to hospital where she tested positive for Covid on May 4.
She was discharged on May 6 and readmitted three days later and eventually ended up in intensive care on May 19.
Former squaddie John added: “After her cancer diagnosis she stayed really positive. She’d always say it was too easy to go into doom and gloom.
“She was a very positive person and after getting the all-clear she said: ‘Well, I’m going back to work.’
“It was before coronavirus had really reached the UK and I think she either caught it while having treatment or once she returned to work.
“The GP thought it was a chest infection but said they were going to treat it as Covid – so she went home to self isolate.
“Within four days she went to bed and didn’t get up and kept deteriorating. After she was taken to hospital on May 9, I didn’t see her again properly.
“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 her 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 daughter come because they needed to see their mum.
“All three of us trooped up to 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 can 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 and has also lost two other elderly aunties to the virus.
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 hundreds of her colleagues waved her off.
John added: “She loved working there and there must’ve been 300 people all clapping.
“It really was phenomenal and really emotional. The hospital were 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 are going to miss her bonhomie and laughter.”