At Aston Hearing we closed our doors mid-March ahead of the national lockdown, so that we could safeguard the health of clients and staff as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. As the number of cases increased it soon became apparent that our practices would remain shut for quite some time. Our staff were furloughed until further notice with a skeleton staff working from home to provide non-contact services and repairs remotely. 

For Amersham based Audiologist Paula Cook, this all came at the worst time for her and her family as her father, Roger, aged 82, suddenly became very seriously ill and passed away just after the lockdown measures were imposed. Losing a loved one is hard enough in normal times but with the restrictions on travel, contact, social distancing and hospital services diverted to Covid-19 admissions it was especially difficult. Here Paula shares her experience of the last few months and remembers her loving Dad.

“My Dad became ill just as we had taken the decision to close the practice. It was a very busy time as we started to prepare for an ‘at home service’ to try and help our clients throughout the Covid-19 crisis. He was unwell at the start of March and complained of back pain. It was unusual for him to feel so ill and he was worsening day by day. Covid-19 was on everyone’s mind and the NHS was preparing for the surge in cases as the pandemic was declared. My Mum took him to A&E in the midst of all this and had blood tests and X-rays done and he was referred back to his GP for follow up care. Hospital was a place to be avoided as the Covid pandemic hit so they were glad to be able to go home.

Over the course of the next few days he lost his appetite and became very fatigued and confined to bed. The GP requested an MRI scan and luckily we got a cancellation appointment almost immediately. The results came through by phone within the hour. He was diagnosed as having cancer of the liver and pancreas. 

It was the first week of the national lockdown and getting access to his GP and nurses for medication and assistance was a nightmare. The medication had to be administered by a nurse and at 4 o’clock in the morning of March 24th two lovely nurses arrived to administer his medication and advised we did not have much longer with him. He sadly died 2 hours later with my mum, myself and my sister at his side. 

We never envisaged we would be one of the families trying to arrange a funeral during the lockdown. It had all happened so fast and the world around us was already so changed with new rules for everything. The funeral directors were amazing and helped us with all the arrangements. Only a maximum of 10 people could attend the service and we numbered six in total. They had even copied out 6 orders of service for us as access to printers was not possible due to Covid-19.

It has all felt very unreal and for my Mum every day feels like ‘Groundhog Day’. It is impossible to grieve properly when you cannot be with your loved ones or get comfort from other people who know you and who knew Dad. We had no time to prepare for this event and haven’t been allowed to do any of the normal things you would expect to do after a bereavement.

We have a family dog, a black Labrador called Rosie and she too has found the ordeal difficult. Dogs are quick to pick up on emotions and sickness and are affected by loss too. We decided to introduce two kittens to the household to help mum cope with the grief and divert attention. They have proved to be the best distraction and source of comfort.

They say it is helpful to remember special happy times shared together and for me there are many special moments with my Dad that I can draw on. Sometimes it is the simplest snapshots in time I recall which help me most. These are just a few:

  He was in the Merchant Navy and was away from home for 4 months at a time, back for 6 weeks then away again. I would sit on the step to await his return every time and look forward to him cooking me my favourite 5 spice Chow Mein – his special dish for me.

Growing up I remember watching him shave in the morning, the proper old-fashioned way with soap and a brush. We also shared a love of his fishpond which he nurtured with such care. I took the net cover off the pond to clean it and in the morning thought the heron and eaten all the fish, I was so upset but to my relief they were just hiding under the plants. 

These are trying times and losing my Dad has made everything so much harder. I have missed my normal working day, seeing clients and colleagues and helping to make a difference for people. I was not furloughed and have instead been making the Amersham practice ready for a new way of working and receiving clients when the time comes. This has included filling a skip with unnecessary equipment and furniture and repainting so that the practice is easy to deep clean and keep safe. I am ready for our return to business and for us all to find a new way forward.”