Man whose wife died of Covid while he was in a coma thanks RVI for compassion his family received

Staff at the RVI in Newcastle made Hayden Dunstan a memory box to remember his wife Catherynn after finding out she had died after he woke from a coma. Credit: Hayden Dunstan

A man whose wife died of Covid, while he was in a coma with the same virus has thanked the NHS for the care they gave him and his family while he was in intensive care.

Hayden Dunstan and his wife Catherynn were diagnosed with Covid in October 2021.

He was in a coma for 30 days in the Cumberland Infirmary. When he woke up, he found out that Catherynn had died of the virus while he was unconscious.

Hayden said: "Connor my son had banned everybody in the ICU from telling me.

"He had insisted that he had to be the one to tell me, and I remember he held my hand, and he said 'mum's died'.

"And in that moment I wanted to die right there and then. And then in the very next moment I thought I can't die I have two children and then it occurred to me that I would be here for 30 years on my own without her."

They had Covid for about 10 days before their oxygen saturation got so low, they had to be rushed into hospital by ambulance.

Hayden added: "It was strange that as I said goodbye, I felt I was going and I said to her I've sent you all the money, can you check the lotto tickets. And those were my last words to her. You'd think I would have come up with something better than that. but unfortunately not."

The nurses who had been caring for her created a memory box for Hayden and their children.

It contained the fabric hearts that Catherynn and Hayden had each held onto when they were in intensive care, a lock of her hair, Catherynn's handprint and a copy of her final ECG scan, alongside a candle and forget me not seeds.

On the back of the ECG was written "From the nurses in Ward 3B RVI Catherynn passed away peacefully. We had music on in the background and we were holding her hands. She was not alone."

"I don't know anyone else in this world who would have done this for me and my boys" Hayden said.

"The ECG I plan to have tattooed across my own heart so her heart will beat with mine until it's my turn."

The note given to Hayden by the nurses who looked after Catherynn at the end of her life. Credit: ITV News

Hayden spent 56 days in hospital, and says he gets angry when he hears people complaining about the NHS.

He said: "I'm here and my children have a father because of the Carlisle ICU staff. I call them the Angels of the ICU. I remember all the staff I remember their names, I remember their forearm tattoos and I used to joke because they all had masks on so I couldn't see their faces.

"All I could see was these lovely eyes - gentle eyes that everyone had, and the tattoos on their arms. I have never in my life seen the compassion and empathy and genuine love that the NHS Doctors and nurses have for their patients. 

"The NHS is by far the best healthcare system I've ever been in, and I've been in a lot. People need to realise in the UK how good the NHS is and how dedicated all these people are, the doctors the nurses.

"They get underpaid, under-appreciated. People get aggressive and abusive with them in hospital with them and it's just not on."

  • Watch the full report from ITV's Tom Barton