'All I wanted was a hug': Frontline healthcare assistant reflects on year of heartache as she kept family safe
As families are reunited outdoors after months of lockdown, it’s a special milestone for relatives who were forced apart by the pandemic.
Trinity Hospice clinical assistant Mandy Greaves knows only too well the heartbreak of family separation – on the wards as she sat with patients taking their last breaths and on a personal
level as she strived to keep her family safe from coronavirus.
Reflecting on the past year, the 59-year-old said: “I know many families have been affected. Some days it is hard to accept the thought of not being able to see those who we have lost.
“The Covid pandemic has affected us all in different ways.”
Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
All of a sudden she had to wave goodbye to her family to keep them safe while she worked on the frontline
Mandy’s partner, Ted Threlfall, moved out of their home on Fairfax Avenue, Bispham, and tears were shed when Mandy’s daughter and grandsons said goodbye as they knew they
wouldn’t be able to visit during lockdown. She said: “My first day working with the team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was March 30. We had just entered the lockdown.
“The sadness I have experienced has been overwhelming at times.
“I remember supporting the wife of an elderly patient who asked me to pass on a message to her husband – she couldn’t visit and didn’t have a smartphone to be able to see him one last
“I passed on the message, knowing it would be her last words to him. It was emotional, but it was a privilege to be able to help.
“One day I got bleeped to go to a ward to sit with a man with Covid who was reaching the end of his life.
“He had no family, and he was scared to die alone.
“I had never met this gentleman, he was not conscious and his breathing was very rapid; he was fighting to breathe. I spoke gently to him. I told him he was not on his own; that I would
stay with him until the end.
“He slowly became more settled. The whole time I was there I was speaking to him and holding his hand. I was at his bed side for an hour. Then his breathing changed. He opened his
eyes for the first time, looked straight at me, then closed his eyes and peacefully died.
“The staff on the ward asked me if I was okay. As I always did, I said I was. But inside I was crying. My heart was pounding. All I wanted was a hug, but I wasn’t allowed.”
Ted moved back home in July last year and things were looking up.
Mandy said: “We were feeling positive that soon all this would be behind us and we would resume the normal everyday things as a family.”
But then in October, Ted developed Covid-19 symptoms, followed by Mandy.
Mandy added: “At the same time, we learned someone close to us had also developed Covid and was seriously unwell. He was only 45, but was in intensive care. Covid took him. And
eight days later it took his mum.
“Back on the wards we were still doing a lot of face timing to help families spend time with each other, and making exceedingly difficult phone calls to families because they cannot visit
their loved ones.
“In December the hospital was becoming terribly busy. Keeping up with my bereavement calls was becoming more difficult due to how busy it was getting. But I always checked in with
relatives who were still needing support.
“There are still tears and wobbles some days, and it is hard to support everyone, but there is a lot of laughter in my family. I feel so privileged to do the job I am doing, and so thankful to
Trinity for giving me the opportunity to grow with experience and wisdom over 29 years.”
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