Voices from the UK's pulmonary hypertension community

The pandemic has proved very distressing

Lynette Hornby, 75, lives in Preston and has undergone surgery for chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH). She lost both her parents to COVID-19 during the first few months of the pandemic.

“When the possibility of us all going into a lockdown was first discussed, the thought of this being for 12 weeks was concerning, especially as I live alone. 

My main concern was however for my elderly parents.

My mother had a stroke in 2002 and then developed Vascular Dementia. She lived with me for almost two years because my father wasn’t coping very well, then he had to go into a nursing home when I was admitted to hospital with multiple bilateral pulmonary emboli. 

Mum was a very placid lady who always had a smile on her face and loved nothing more than to hold hands. Dad visited her every day, and I visited most days for two to three hours at a time. My concerns were that she would not know why we were not visiting her, and that if she got covid, we would never see her again. 

The inevitable happened and on 16th March 2020 the nursing home went into lockdown, a week before everyone else. 

I telephoned every day, then the dreaded news came halfway through May that Mum had tested positive for covid. 

Up until this time I had continued to do her personal laundry; the care staff placed it outside the door, and I collected it and replaced it with the clean laundry. It wasn’t necessary to do this, but I felt that I was still doing something for Mum and as I was shielding it meant that I had a purpose to go out twice a week without having contact with anyone. Once the diagnosis was made I ceased the laundry trips.

On the 10th May I was told that Mum wouldn’t eat or drink and I was asked if I wanted to go to see her. I thought hard about this but decided to don my PPE and go in. 

She wouldn’t open her eyes but she squeezed my hand and I managed to get her to have some fluid. The next day I was told that she seemed much better and was sitting in her chair, so I went in again. 

A doctor from my own practice was there, and I told her that I was meant to be shielding. 

Her reply was, “Lynette, sometimes there are things that you have to do, and this is one of them.” 

Mum recognised me straight away and gave me a big smile and held her hand out to me. I fed her a bowl of soup, ice cream and juice to drink. She seemed to be over the worst as she was now covid-negative, but she passed away two days later at the age of 97, with me present. My parents had been married for exactly 78 years and two weeks.

For all this time I hadn’t been visiting my father, my sister had been visiting him. I had communicated with him by phone, but this was difficult because of his deafness. 

With Mum gone I felt that he needed more support, so I started to visit him most days. I was always very careful because he had carers going in, so I always kept my distance and wore a mask, as did Dad.

On 5th November 2020, the first day of the second lockdown, Dad – who had Alzheimer’s – celebrated his 100th birthday, but with no big party.

We had a small gathering of Dad, my sister, my brother-in-law and myself for lunch and a FaceTime session with my nephew and family in Denmark. 

Despite not having the celebration we would have planned, Dad seemed to enjoy his big day, the highlight being his card from Her Majesty the Queen.

Three weeks after his birthday, Dad had a fall at home. He activated his ‘lifeline’ device and I arrived to find him lying on the floor. He was subsequently taken to hospital and found to be covid-negative with a dislocated shoulder. 

His shoulder was replaced in its socket but because of his confusion he wouldn’t keep his sling on, so the shoulder again dislocated. A week after his admission I received a call from the doctor on the ward to say that Dad had now tested positive for covid.

Dad’s condition continued to deteriorate, and he passed away on 23rd December in the nursing home that had cared for Mum, six months and ten days after her. 

The funeral service for Mum had to be outside the church, at the graveside.

By the time Dad passed away restrictions were less, but we decided to do the same and have a service of thanksgiving for their lives at a later date. This service took place in October 2021 and has helped us as a family.

On a personal front, the pandemic has proved very distressing. It is difficult to separate the effects of the loss of two loved ones from the feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness caused because of covid.

I guess that it is all because of covid, as that was the cause of my parent’s deaths. 

Soon after lockdown began I started having my shopping delivered because I didn’t want to feel that I was dependant or a burden on others. 

Now restrictions have been lifted, but I still have use of supermarket delivery services. I feel very anxious if I go out, and I don’t go anywhere where there are a lot of people. 

Most of the time I am at home, but I live alone so I think that loneliness is my biggest problem.”

~The photo shows Lynette with her parents in 2018, on their 76th wedding anniversary. She told her story to the PHA UK in the summer of 2022~


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