Bristol nurse to buy iPads for hospitals after spending final hours with 'legend' dad as he died with coronavirus

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A Bristol nurse whose “legend” dad died with coronavirus is raising money to buy iPads for hospitals so families can be with loved ones in their final moments.

Aimee Hilton, who lives in Yate, has spoken about how difficult it was not being able to see her father while he was in the Royal Cornwall Hospital with Covid-19.

But with the use of technology she was able to see him “for the last 6 hours of his life” which was “something incredibly special”.

Now Aimee plans to buy more iPads for hospitals across the region to help other families overcome the emotional strain of not being able to physically see their relatives.

James was admitted to the RCH after having a reaction to a treatment for skin cancer. Credit: Aimee Hilton

Aimee’s dad, James Spalding, was admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in March after having a reaction to a treatment he was receiving for skin cancer.

It was there it's assumed the 72-year-old contracted coronavirus.

Mr Spalding lived near Fowey with his wife, Aimee’s step-mum.

His daughter has described him as a real “Cornish legend”.

Having been a nurse for two decades, one of the hardest things for Aimee was not being able to see her dad.

She said: “Dad was a technophobe and broke the very basic phone he had. This left us pestering the ever-patient staff for updates on his progress."

Staff at the RCH told Aimee’s family they’d recently bought an iPad and were using it to Skype the loved ones of people in the hospital.

When doctors advised her that James' health had declined, Aimee spent six hours sitting with him via the iPad before the battery died.

Aimee is a senior lecturer in nursing at the University of the West of England and is currently training staff for Bristol's new Nightingale Hospital.

She said a key lesson for students "is how we holistically care for dying patients and their relatives." The pandemic, she said, "has changed significant aspects of the gold standard care we strive to teach and deliver."

Not being able to physically be with her dad therefore went against everything she has practised in her 20 years of working for the NHS.

After losing her dad, Aimee launched a fundraiser in the hope of buying another iPad for the unit at Treliske, to give "all families" the opportunity to see their loved ones.

Along with her husband Adam and brother Paul, she plans to cycle from the Bristol Suspension Bridge to her dad’s cottage in Tywardreath, near Fowey, when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Already, nearly £7,000 pounds has been donated, which means Aimee can buy iPads for hospitals across the West Country.

As well as giving the iPads to acute hospital trusts, Aimee has set up donations to St Julias & Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in Cornwall, Dorothy House and St Peters Hospice in Bristol.

You can visit Aimee's fundraising page here.