Family grieves for mother who had just fleeting moments with baby son after catching coronavirus

  • Video report by ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo

A mother who had just a few fleeting moments with her new-born baby held a picture of her son before she died in hospital with coronavirus.

Fozia Hanif had just celebrated her 29th birthday when she started to develop symptoms and tested positive, forcing a premature birth of her boy, Ayaan, on April 2.

Just six days later, Fozia’s family was told to come to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital to say their goodbyes to the new mother who had never met her baby.

"She was really happy, she got the baby photo they (nurses) printed out for her,” her husband of nearly seven years, Wajid Ali, told ITV News.

“She was holding and say ‘look it’s our baby’ and ‘we’re going to come home soon’… that’s the last time I spoke to her.”

Fozia, who worked at the probation service in a magistrate' court, had been going to hospital for check-ups during her pregnancy.

She developed a slight fever in March and hospital staff decided to keep her in for tests despite only showing mild symptoms.

She tested positive for coronavirus but was soon released back home.

But her condition quickly began to deteriorate, and she was back in hospital and on a ventilator and isolated from her family, who were last all together on her birthday, March 18.

“From a joyous occasion, the next time we saw her she was struggling on a ventilator,” said her father Nabil Hanif.

“It was a painful experience when we walked into the hospital when they said they were going to turn the machine off and the ventilators and I said 'no, don’t turn it off until we arrive. She’s a fighter, she can pull through'.

"But when we walked in and we saw Fozia… we just kept praying.”

Fozia died on April 8 - six days after her son Ayaan was born just 31 weeks into her pregnancy by C-section.

While Ayaan has tested negative, he remains in hospital.

Fozia’s sister, Sophia Hanif, said she would receive texts telling her how excited she was to finally meet her baby.

“She was messaging us saying ‘oh I haven’t seen the baby yet’ and I said ‘don’t worry about it, when you come home you’re going to come home together and we’re all going to see him together’,” she said.

Fozia, who died three weeks after testing positive, was in a coma when her family said farewell.

Her family said they will have “so many things” to tell Ayaan - which means 'gift from God' - about his mother.

Fozia's smile would 'light up a room'.

“She was so wonderful, she always used to think about others she wouldn’t think about herself,” Wajid said.

“Our friends don’t believe it… she was nice to everybody.”

Sophia said her smile “could light up a room”, while her dad described her as a “superstar”.

“We’re all devastated, shocked, we’re still grieving, but we’ve got each other. We’re holding each other, supporting each other. I’ve got other siblings, grandkids,” Nabil said.

Imam Ijaz Ahmad Shaami said: "It's been a very difficult time and so hard for the families and the community especially when we lose someone so young in such tragic circumstances.

"We're staying strong and doing what we can to support families and reminding everyone they must stay at home."

Baby Ayaan is still in hospital.

Local Sandwell councillor Mohammed Yaseen Hussain had also supported the family thought the ordeal.

He wanted to remind the public – in particular communities who struggle to understand social distancing - to take the necessary precautions to avoid more tragic deaths.

“Stay safe, stay indoors, a lot of our communities are not understanding and we need to wake up because these numbers will go up if we don’t take the advice,” he said.

Her husband said they had lost a daughter last year and that Fozia never stopped missing her.

“Now they are together,” he said.

He said hospital bereavement services and coroner’s offices across the West Midlands had managed to provide support to the families of victims but are stretched by the number of people who require their help.

ITV News also understands a second mother who tested positive for the virus died days after giving birth.

The family of Fozia Hanif has set up a fundraising page to help with Ayaan's upbringing here:

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know