Covid 19 coronavirus: ‘Haunting’ – Kiwi woman’s pain after brother dies of virus in the UK

As a man lay in a UK hospital one evening struggling to breathe and talk, he sent an emoji heart in a text message to his sister in New Zealand.

The 75-year-old died early the next morning of Covid-19.

Mike Dinnick’s death has devastated his sister Janice Sodeau, who has lived in New Zealand since 1981 – but as she talks, her grief is overtaken by fury towards the people in the UK that she says aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.

“I wish they could see how my brother suffered,” she said.

“It’s the most awful, evil death. It’s so slow. It destroys you gradually. He had no lungs left at all at the end, he was struggling to breathe.

“He was too sick to be intubated. They said because he’s got a weak heart if they intubate him it will kill him within the hour so he went into palliative [care]. It would be like slowly drowning because you can’t breathe. It’s haunting.”

Dinnick lived in Croydon, London, and had been extremely cautious during the pandemic as he had underlying health conditions.

A few days before Christmas he decided to leave the house for the first time since March, Sodeau said, catching the train to meet his daughter at a café.

Sodeau said Dinnick caught the virus during the café outing.

He developed symptoms three days later and tested positive for Covid-19 seven days after developing symptoms, she said.

He woke up at 3am one morning struggling to breathe and called for an ambulance but there were none available and no bed spaces free at the local Croydon Hospital, she said.

Three days later, she said, he couldn’t breathe at all and an ambulance was dispatched to take him to St Helier Hospital. He went straight into the intensive care unit.

“His wife said [to me] that as soon as they wheeled him out of the house she knew he wasn’t coming home again.”

With the hospital bursting with patients, Dinnick’s wife Kenda couldn’t visit or call the hospital. She had to wait for the doctor to call with updates every other day.

A day after being admitted into palliative care and 28 days after being diagnosed with Covid-19, Dinnick died.

Like thousands of other families, there will be no funeral for Dinnick. He’ll be cremated at the hospital and his ashes sent to his wife.

Dinnick is just one of the thousands of people in the UK who have died from the virus, with more than 87,000 fatalities and three million confirmed cases reported.

He was an avid Arsenal football fan. “He’d do anything for Arsenal,” his sister said.

His urn will be red with the inscription: “Gunner Mike”, a term used to describe Arsenal fans.

“He was an absolute joker,” she said.

“One of my greatest memories of him is we used to get under the bed covers and he used to tell to me what to wish for because he had a ‘magic fairy’ that could get me anything I wanted. He used to say ‘if you wish for a jam sandwich you’ll get one’ and I did and there was a jam sandwich,” she said.

“It was so funny because he used to tell me what to wish for because he had already got it and it was years before I realised that he didn’t have magic powers.”

And Mike was a fighter. When he was 33, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and survived after being given a seven-week terminal diagnosis, she said.

“He was a fighter for people’s rights, for the underdog. He was unique in that he was fighting for the underdog. When he was in the ward with leukaemia sufferers, there was a 15-year-old boy sat up in bed [who] said ‘I don’t want to live anymore’ and he [replied]: ‘You’ve got to keep fighting mate otherwise you will die’.”

Sodeau said her niece and her niece’s two daughters have Covid-19, and her other brother is a Covid-19 survivor.

“My sister said when she went to bed [last night], apart from my brother, she didn’t know one person who had Covid and she woke up today and 20 of her friends have got Covid.

“It’s so bad over there. We’ve now got that [UK] strain [in New Zealand]. It’s almost like aliens have invaded us.”

She’s “petrified” now that the new UK variant has reached New Zealand.

“It’s terrible. When you think England has so many more major hospitals than New Zealand and every single one of them is overwhelmed with Covid that there is no way we’d cope here. It’d just collapse.”

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