Amazing legacy of father who died of Covid and raised six children who all work on the NHS frontline
When 81 year-old Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry died of Covid in December, he left behind a legacy of six children, all NHS frontline workers, who sacrificed precious time with their father in his final days to help other patients battling the virus.
Five members of the Ahsan family joined today’s Good Morning Britain - Dr Saleyha Ahsan , an ITU doctor, Dr Syria Ahsan, a GP, Dr Saima Ahsan, a consultant pediatrician, Dr Safiyah Ahsan, a GP, and Dr Shoaib Ahsan, a junior doctor spoke to Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway about their late father.
Asked how her father got ill, Dr Saleyha said: “He had been shielding all year, we had been very careful about that. We actually can’t pinpoint how it happened, it just goes to show how incredibly careful people have to be and not complacent. The first sign of him being not well...he just developed a temperature and his mobility went down a little bit… it was when the nurse came home and took his oxygen levels, and I was told remotely that his labels were below 90...I just had that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach because that wasn’t right.”
Saleyha also warned that the virus took her father, even though he didn’t have major underlying health conditions: “He had asthma but it was extremely well controlled. He lived a really healthy, fit, full life. He was still studying for various degrees, astrophysics was his passion. I still can’t believe it really.”
Syria, who was doing urgent care shifts in the same hospital in Essex where her father was admitted, recalled when she saw her father’s x-ray. “They just showed us the x-ray and we didn’t say anything. The signs on the x-ray were more severe than what you are seeing symptomatically with my dad and we knew what was to follow… you know the projection of the disease and you know what it is to come.”
She continued: “In that situation, I wish I wasn’t a doctor, to be honest with you, because you know what the numbers mean, you know what the blood test numbers mean, you know what the oxygen levels mean...it was so surreal, it was like a car crash in slow motion.”
Describing what she is seeing on a day to day basis in hospitals, Syria said: “The day prior to my dad’s passing, every patient had tested positive for Covid. I had 40 year-old men crying because they were unable to complete a sentence without that triggering coughing… It was quite traumatic because Covid affects everything, it doesn’t just affect your breathing, it affects your energy levels, it gives you constant headaches and mind fog. It was like a deluge… I felt like I had walked into a war zone. We had isolation areas where you put your Covid patients but that was overspilling into the non-Covid areas. We are not coping.”
Saima then weighed in: “You go to work and you want to give 100 % but the systems around you are at breaking point. Within pediatrics, we are looking after adults now and they are redeploying all of our junior doctors into adult areas. Some of them haven’t seen adult patients for 8-10 years, but we are having to pull together… It is really quite frightening and I think the next two weeks are really going to stretch the NHS.”
Remembering her father, Saima said: “He was a very kind man, he was larger than life. He had a big laugh and a loud voice, he had a way of bringing us all together. He and my mum were like the glue in our family… He was always constantly supportive of everything we were doing… He knew I had a run of ‘on-calls’ and he was like, ‘Let me cook something for you’ because he saw how hard we had been working throughout our training… They would always be thinking of us...We saw them more as friends rather than parents now we’re adults.”
Safiyah then talked about how it is still “surreal” dealing with their father’s death. “It’s a bit weird because you still think he is downstairs,” she said.
Shoaib, who helped Safiyah take their dad to hospital, said: “Unlike the rest of the children, me and Safiyah still live at home mostly, so our routine is to wake up, go downstairs, sit in my dad’s room and chat for a while.”
Safiyah added: “The last thing we did, we had a really good saturday before he got ill, we watched The Godfather, and watched some food… he would always manage to make himself laugh so much that he would start choking… We would always hear him on the phone with his friends laughing really loudly… It’s an empty house really. It’s going to take some getting used to.”
Issuing a final message to viewers about the pandemic, Saleyha said: “Be careful, it is real, it is nasty. I saw it close up. It took my dad, the disease is real. Treat it with respect, no one is immune from it really. I am still getting phone calls from the GP offering the vaccine to my dad, that has been really painful. Its just 13 days too late. But get your vaccine, and the government, get a grip.”