Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

Sisters thought mum died of dementia but later found out she'd had coronavirus

A family were told their mum died of dementia during lockdown, only to discover later that she had in fact contracted coronavirus.

Sisters Shirley Barrett and Liz Perry, from Derby, said it was only during a meeting with the registrar to arrange their mum’s death certificate that they discovered the ‘shocking’ news.

The pair said several vulnerable members of the family visited their mum, Henrietta Blackwood, in hospital in the days before she died and worried they may have been exposed to the virus.

The 84-year-old passed away on May 7 at the Royal Derby Hospital where bosses have apologised for not promptly telling the family Henrietta had tested positive. They say the test results didn’t come back until after she’d died.

Shirley, her daughter-in-law, said: ‘Mum had the initial test when she was in the care home and that came back negative and then her health went down hill and she went into hospital and, as a matter of course, they did another one.

‘The hospital said it was only a matter of time that we would be losing her, so they said family could visit, 14 of us went to visit including one that was pregnant, I couldn’t go with my husband because we were shielding.’

The sisters say it was a ‘slap in the face’ to learn that coronavirus had played a part in their mum’s death ‘from a stranger.’


Liz, 57, said: ‘We heard from the registrar that our mum had died of Covid-19, it was a shock and it had a knock-on effect.

‘As part of our culture we balm them after they’ve passed away and you look after them and get them dressed, obviously that couldn’t happen – you can’t even see the body.

‘Nobody had told us, we all went to visit – one is pregnant, one works in a care home – and nobody is telling anybody anything, it was a horrible experience.’

The sisters said the virus has affected many friends and family in Derby and the surrounding area.

Liz added: ‘We know that quite a few black people in Derby that have passed away and it has been really difficult, the whole community is grieving.

‘We’ve got family in Rugby who’ve lost loved ones, so it’s only over the phone that we can offer support, because you can’t go and see them, you can only offer sympathy.’

The women are now planning a memorial service for their mum but say what they do will depend on the Government guidelines in place at the time. 

Cathy Winfield, executive chief nurse at the Royal Derby Hospital, said: ‘I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to Mrs Blackwood’s family for their loss.

‘It’s really important to us that we’re able to keep our patients and their loved ones informed throughout each stage of their care, but sadly, restrictions during Covid-19 have made this more difficult than normal.

‘Mrs Blackwood’s family should have been made aware that all of our patients are routinely swabbed for Covid-19 when they are first admitted to hospital.

‘We should have also informed them that their mother’s test had returned as positive but, as this result didn’t come back until after she had passed away, we didn’t promptly communicate this information to the family, for which we are very sorry.’

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