'I miss him terribly' - Wife remembers Stuart Goodman, one of Norfolk's first Covid-19 victims
- Credit: Submitted
A Norwich woman has paid tribute to her husband - almost one year after he succumbed to Covid-19, making him one of the first few people to die with the virus in Norfolk.
Annie Henriques' husband Stuart Goodman (a former Fleet Street photographer) was 72 when he passed away, just 10 days after England was plunged into its first lockdown.
Additional heartache was to follow. While planning Stuart's small, socially-distanced funeral, Annie was back in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in mid-May, praying her son Adam wouldn't also yield to Coronavirus.
"He was on the verge of needing ventilation," she said. "It was a terrible time."
Just over a year later, Annie, a music therapist, says the care both her husband had in his final days and that her son Adam had as he recovered from Covid-19 was fantastic.
But she is critical of both the government's decision to delay lockdown in March 2020 and thinks the restrictions which have been eased in recent weeks have been done too early.
On March 18 last year, shortly before the initial lockdown, husband Stuart was diagnosed with cancer, starting chemotherapy on March 24. A short time later he was admitted to hospital suffering Covid-19 symptoms.
"Stu and I hadn't gone anywhere, apart from walking the dog," Annie said.
"We were having deliveries to shield Stuart while he was having his chemotherapy as we were aware of the side effects.
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"On Sunday, March 29, he went in by ambulance and was back on the ward; he knew everyone there so it was a familiar setting.
"On the Monday evening (March 30) he tested positive for Covid-19 and we were told that they would give him palliative care only.
"He was so vulnerable and there was no hope of him recovering. I accepted this decision although Jo (my daughter) and Adam found it harder to accept. We were all scared of what was happening and it was happening so fast.
"At one point I said to a nurse that I didn’t want him to die alone. I didn’t think he had cognition at that stage, but he said quite clearly "I’m not going to die" - this was less than 24 hours before he passed away.
"At around 11.40pm on the Wednesday we were told that he had about an hour to live so we stayed with him that night. We were together, holding hands and I sung with him matching my pitch and tempo to his breath. It was a very peaceful way for him to go."
Stuart died at 6.55am on Thursday, April 2, 2020. He was one of the first 10 deaths in Norfolk.
Annie said: "He had a good death given the circumstances.
"I'm quite resilient and haven't folded. I'm about to turn 70 and still working. I miss him terribly, but have had good support from friends and family”
Six weeks after the tragic loss of her husband, her son Adam also developed symptoms and was soon in intensive care.
Annie said: "It hit him hard, especially as he was only 30 and really lean and fit. He carries no weight at all and had been a regular marathon runner, completing them in well under three-and-a-half hours.
"Because he works at a school we all got tested. In hospital it was immediately clear that he had Covid-19 and he was treated accordingly.
"Adam is now making a good recovery through his own perseverance and he is determined to crack on with his life and his running again. He has completed the Couch to 5K programme and is currently building up to 10k. If all goes well he hopes to run marathons in the future.
"From losing Stu to suddenly seeing my son in intensive care was tough, especially as it was six weeks later and he was at the same hospital on the same ward.
"The staff at the Norfolk and Norwich were fantastic and Stu's death was handled well. But I do blame the government, especially for how they handled the first lockdown.
"We locked down far too late - we're an island after all and we could have closed our borders! It can't have been that hard. I look at New Zealand and how they handled it and the low number of deaths they had.
"And now I think the government have got it wrong again with this new variant. I have no intention of going to a pub or anything like that while there is still such a risk.
Following her father's death, Annie and Stuart's daughter Jo, 32, co-founded the group: Covid-19: Bereaved Families for Justice. They have been campaigning for lessons to be learnt and have been partly responsible for securing a public enquiry.
"The only thing the government has done well is the vaccine rollout which has given everyone a good feeling," Annie said.
Another poignant part of Stuart's passing was the fact he had a book published just a fortnight before his death called One Saturday in 82 on Broadway Market.
The family received the first copies of the book when they got back from hospital on the day he had his cancer diagnosis. There are copies of the book at the Book Hive in London Street and it's available online.
Stuart had worked as a photographer, night picture editor and picture desk executive at papers including The Guardian, The Independent and Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard and later taught A-level photography at City College until retiring in 2010.
"We held the funeral on April 21 which was attended by 10 people at Jewish cemetery and we then held a stone setting ceremony for just six people in March of this year," Annie said.
"That gave me a sense of closure as he has a lovely memorial stone.
"He does live on in the book, which is about his life. On the second anniversary of his death next April, the publishers, OwnitLondon, are planning to hold a book launch at Hackney Town Hall close to Broadway Market, where the book is set. This will double up as a celebration of his life."