GMB pays tribute to five care workers who have died during the coronavirus pandemic
As we prepare to pay tribute to carers again tonight by clapping - potentially for the last time - we would like to highlight the lives - and sad deaths - of a handful of individual carers. GMB has spoken to the close friends and relatives of five of those who have died during the pandemic.
Ben Shephard and Ranvir Singh read out the tributes from friends and families to Barbara Sage, Dr Sadeq Elhowsh, Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, Andy Treble and Elsie Sazuze.
Here they are in full:
BARBARA SAGE (1952-2020)
Barbara, from Bromley in south London, died aged 68 in intensive care on Easter Sunday. She spent over 40 years working as a palliative care nurse - the past 14 years for Marie Curie, providing care to dying people in the community.
She was two months off paying off her mortgage and at 68 was looking forward to scaling back work as she got older, but not totally stopping, because work was too important to her.
She started her nursing career as an ambulance driver in 1970’s London - but soon switched to palliative care helping people in their final days.
Her daughter Donna said because of Barbara’s job looking after the terminally ill, she wasn't afraid of death: “She used to say to me that life was like a lightbulb, one minute it's there, and then ping, it goes, it's still hot but the light starts to fade away. That's how she described being there with someone in their last moments.”
She loved many types of music - from 60s classics, to UB40 and Ed Sheeran. She also loved to hoover, sometimes at 6 or 7am in the morning. Donna now always thinks of her Mum when she hoovers.
Since her Mum’s death, Donna says she’s received amazing letters from people describing how Barbara would comfort their relatives and hold their hands in their last moments.
When Barbara’s last moment came, nurses connected her to Donna for a video call. Donna says she could hear the nurses crying as she said goodbye. She remembers asking “please someone hold her hand”.
Barbara leaves a partner Gerald, her children Donna and Aaron, and her five grandchildren - they plan to celebrate Barbara’s life at a memorial later in the year.DR SADEQ ELHOWSH (1962-2020)
Dr Sadeq worked as an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside. He was 58 years old.
Sadeq’s friend and colleague Dr Abubaker Elbadri said of coronavirus: “As Doctors, we’ve seen death, we’ve seen illnesses. This is different. It takes you away from the people you love and who love you.”
Sadeq was a devout Muslim. His family feared for Sadeq dying alone, but Dr Elbadri said: “Sadeq didn’t die alone. Thousands were with him. Standing in silence at a funeral is not part of Muslim culture, but that silence was heard all over the world.”
Dr Sadeq trained in Libya, coming to the UK to do postgraduate work and stayed. He found relocation difficult, missing his parents and siblings who he left behind - but he loved his work.
Sadeq means truthful in Arabic; his nickname among colleagues at the hospital - where he worked for the past 17 years - was ‘Shield’ because he was always there to protect and help when they needed it.
Colleagues spoke of a very dedicated, kind and quiet person who left an impression on people without making a big noise
He leaves four sons: the youngest is six, the eldest 19. The two elder brothers, one wants to do Biomedical Sciences, and one has three offers for Medicine... but like many 18 year olds this year faces uncertainty over his A level results.DR ABDUL MABUD CHOWDHURY (1967-2020)
Abdul was a consultant urologist who worked at Homerton Hospital in East London and died at Queen's Hospital in Romford aged 52.
His 11-year-old daughter Wareesha says he was never afraid to say anything and that he was a risk taker.
Before he died Abdul wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson asking him to "urgently" ensure personal protective equipment for "each and every NHS worker in the UK". He told the prime minister that healthcare workers have a "human right like others to live in this world disease-free with our family and children".
He used to call Wareesha his “lovely jubbly daughter” and take her every Wednesday after school to a local ice cream bar. She also says he was the loudest snorer in the world.
His son Intisar says his Dad was “a real party animal” and recalls elaborate and “crazy” Bangladeshi dance routines he would choreograph and costume for family events. He would spend days rehearsing the routines.
Dr Chowdhury met his wife Rehana when they were both students at Chittagong Medical College. He arranged a huge 25th anniversary party last year that was a complete surprise to his wife, who cried. The surprise the family say was amazing as he was the worst person at keeping secrets.
If a movie was made of his life, his family say Dr Chowdhury’s choice of actor playing him would be the Bollywood Star Aamir Khan. Or Will Smith.ANDY TREBLE (1963-2020)
Andy was a theatre assistant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. He died 4 days after his dad - who had also died of Coronavirus.
His Mum was a nurse, and Andy worked in the same hospital for nearly 40 years.
He had increased his hours to help with the extra need at his hospital and would have been “tickled” to see the tributes being paid to him.
He had a charm and ease about him - which his sister Maria thinks is down to her and her sisters: Andy was the only boy in a family of five.
Everyone who talks of him mentions his sense of humour: he especially loved the slapstick old school humour of Tommy Cooper, Del Boy, Laurel and Hardy.
He also loved Coronation Street: rarely missing an episode - and he visited the set - many times. He especially liked the classic characters; Bet Lynch, Hilda and Stan Ogden.
Andy was a huge football fan and supported two clubs - Liverpool and Shrewsbury Town.
ELSIE SAZUZE (1975-2020)
Elsie was a care home nurse. She's survived by her husband, Ken, 16-year-old daughter, Anna-Claire, and 22-year-old son, Andrew.
She was born in Malawi, as was her husband. Ken moved to the UK in the early 2000s and joined the British Army. Elsie joined him in 2004.
Ken’s work took them all over - Portsmouth, Ipswich, London, Germany and, after leaving the army, they settled in the West Midlands, both wanting to focus on their education and, Ken says, they “started from zero”.
While he studied, Ken says Elsie “was the breadwinner. The whole house relied on her.” When she died she had managed to save enough for a holiday to Gran Canaria for Ken’s graduation this summer. It's a holiday they'll never take.
Elsie began nursing in a hospital, but less than a year ago she switched to nursing in care homes which she loved.
They spent leisure time camping and travelling to the seaside - Elsie “wasn’t a good swimmer, but she loved paddling”.
Church played a big role in Elsie’s life. With the family moving a lot for 20 years, having the church community made adapting easier.
Ken said: “The family believed in making memories together.”
After a 1.5 hour church service, they would go for picnics or bbqs. Sometimes, afterwards, Ken and Elsie would leave the kids at home and go out clubbing. They liked going out clubbing as a couple, Ken says it was an opportunity to “rekindle their love”. Elsie loved music, particularly: RnB, 90s hip hop and afrobeats. She was a fan of artists including: Brandy and Joe (Thomas).
Anna and her mum used to dance together, Anna says they would “dance to everything”.
With Elsie gone, Ken says the family have “shuttered the whole house” and “home is never the same”.