'It was so powerful': Doctor said last goodbye to dad with coronavirus over video call

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

A doctor who said goodbye to his dad over a video call described it as a “powerful” moment and an experience he will keep with him.

Alex Yuen contracted coronavirus and died in hospital aged 71, after he collapsed at home and was then hospitalised.

His son, Sebastian Yuen, told ITV News his dad was a “very passionate person” who was “always the life and soul of a party” and the “loudest in the room.”

For the last 20 years, he ran a Chinese clinic.

Mr Yuen said when the family video-called his dad from his hospital bed, they did not think it would be the last time they spoke.

Mr Yuen said: “We knew he was deteriorating, so we arranged a call… There was a great conversation, a great connection and at one point, my brother makes an inappropriate joke and we all laughed.

“We all said we loved each other and we were deeply present in that moment, it was so powerful.

“All of this brings some form of closure and he wasn’t alone, he knew we were there… that video call, previously I would have thought you had to be in the same room, you have to be with someone for it to be real, but that was truly real and I just hope other people can experience that, that was a moment I’ll keep with me.”

Mr Yuen also called for more improvements to technology to help people communicate and for WiFi in hospitals to be boosted to help people stay in touch.

He said his dad was a “big strong guy, passionate and powerful” but by the end he became “vulnerable, shrunken, weak".

His dad had underlying health conditions and so had a “fear” about going into hospital.

“He was slow to answer questions at times, his lips looked dry and yet his mind was clear, [he said] I don’t want to die alone, don’t make me go to hospital, I want to stay here,” Mr Yuen said.

“I don’t know if it was because he’d heard stories about the people who die old, and he had underlying conditions, he had chest problems, he had emphysema, he had heart problems in the past, he was overweight and I think there was a fear.”

Mr Yuen said everyone is missing normal contact at the moment but being alone in hospital with the virus, as no visitors are allowed, “must be so much more intense to consider.”

Rhiannon Emary helped to take care of Alex Yuen. Credit: ITV News

But nurses and doctors do what they can to offer a human touch.

Rhiannon Emary, clinical nurse specialist at St George’s Hospital, helped to look after Mr Yuen.

She told ITV News: “Each person that is dying or has Covid is still a person and it’s important that we treat them like a person and that they’re not forgotten about, and they’re able to speak to their families as they would day to day.”

Ms Emary said she asked Mr Yuen at the end what she could do for him.

“He said ‘I just want to feel love’, so I relayed that back to his family, which I found quite emotional.”

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