Wigan mum focuses on late husband’s legacy after surviving Covid-19

“I explained I was a widow and had children at home. Please don’t let me die. I can’t say how many times I said, ‘please don’t let me die.”

By Gaynor Clarke
Friday, 29th May 2020, 7:00 am

Those were the words of Jane Dixon as she was told she needed to go to a critical care ward at Wigan Infirmary, after testing positive for coronavirus.

Her husband Steve died less than two years earlier during a holiday in Duabi, when he was 46, and she was terrified that her three children and two step-children would lose another parent.

Jane, who lives in Hindley Green, had been under the weather for about a week, but did not realise she had coronavirus.

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She said: “It felt at first like a bit of hay fever. The weather had been nice and I had been in the garden weeding and tidying up. I had a scratch in the back of my throat and a bit of a cough.”

She started to feel worse, becoming “more poorly, more flu-y”, with a chesty cough and then trouble with her breathing.

Jane spoke to her neighbours, who work as paramedics and found her oxygen levels were low, and she called 999 a couple of times, but did not go to hospital.

But her condition worsened and when one of the paramedic neighbours, dressed in protective gear, saw she was breathless while walking across the kitchen, he phoned her doctor and then 999.

Jane Dixon is recovering from coronavirus

Jane, who did not have any underlying health conditions, was taken to Wigan Infirmary by ambulance, initially to the A&E unit and then to Ince ward. Tests were carried out and she was put on oxygen.

That same day, Jane was told she needed to go to the critical care ward to start using a CPAP machine, which helps with breathing.

She says she was “horrified” and asked the doctor to make sure she did not die.

Her family was at the front of her mind as she was taken to Winstanley ward.

Steve Dixon

She said: “We were not ready, not that you ever are, but I did ask him, ‘please don’t let me die’.”

Jane had to wear the CPAP mask for hours and she felt “quite panicky because it’s tight on your face”. It was uncomfortable and she could not lie on her back.

Doctors and nurses checked on her every 30 minutes and while she could not have visitors, she could speak to her family using video calls.

She had CPAP for five days, before using it for half the night for a couple of days and then just oxygen.

Jane said: “The final night, when I could stay in there and not have it on, was amazing.

“It was a scary process because there are a lot of beds coming and going. Some people were being wheeled up to intensive care because they were not responding well.

“Other than a couple of elderly gentlemen in there, I really noticed it was my age group in there - 40s to 50s, maybe 55.”

As she battled the illness, her husband and children were in her thoughts.

“I was constantly trying to have a positive mental attitude. I thought, ‘I am well, I am better, I will see my children’.

“I had chats with him. All I could think was that I didn’t want to orphan my children. I just needed the doctors to save me, which they did,” she said.

Jane left critical care after eight days in hospital, on what would have been Steve’s birthday.

She said: “On May 8, which was his birthday, I got out of the doors. The date was above the doors and it was so nice to get out of the door. I looked up and thanked him for the birthday present.”

She left hospital four days later to a round of applause from staff.

She said: “The applause I left to was amazing. I didn’t expect that. They said they wanted to give me a clap and I thought it was just that woman, but they had the whole hospital out to line the corridors.

“The doctors and nurses are going in daily and they are losing people they are caring for and fighting for. It must be absolutely soul-destroying for them at the moment to be going in doing what they love and seeing there is nothing more they can do.

“I think the clap off is good for them, not just us. They have taken this person and done everything they can and it’s worked.”

Jane described the staff at the hospital as “absolutely amazing”, highlighting the auxiliaries in particular, and said she hopes to stay in touch with those who cared for her.

She will also put together care packages for the ward with items such as shampoo, after a nurse brought shampoo and conditioner in so Jane could wash her hair.

Jane said: “I can’t praise them enough. They say they are angels and they really are.”

She is now recovering at home, but she will continue to need oxygen for several weeks and faces a long road back to good health.

“They have told me it is a six month-plus recovery,” she said. “What my doctor said to me as he was wheeling me out was, because I had chronic pneumonia as well, if he had taken my

CT scan of my lungs 12 months ago they would be the worst he had seen in his career, but now they are 10 a penny.

“That is how bad people’s lungs are getting damaged with the pneumonia coming with the coronavirus.”

Jane does not know how she contracted the virus, but after becoming so poorly, she is urging people to protect themselves.

She said: “Just don’t be stupid. Don’t be meeting people that you shouldn’t meet. Keep up with social distancing and only go out if you need to.”

As she recovers at home, with the support of her family, Jane is focusing on a project she hopes will be a legacy for Steve.

The couple married in 2006 and were enjoying a trip in the desert in Dubai when he collapsed and died from heart failure.

Jane said: “We were devastated. He has left a massive gap in our lives that will never be filled.”

While her daughters’ school suggested they make a memory book, Jane was surprised to discover that not all of their teachers were aware they had lost their father.

She thought more should be done to support bereaved youngsters.

Jane said: “Teachers are just taught to teach. I think it needs to be brought in at university as part of their teacher training to give them a little understanding and put something in place for the school.

“Schools could have their own bereavement policy and train themselves.”

She decided to contact Karen Edwards, CEO of Bolton Lads’ and Girls’ Club, for help, as businessman Steve had worked with the charity.

They are now working up a scheme that will see teachers learn how to provide bereavement support for pupils.

By making them more aware, teachers can look out for changes in a child’s behaviour or just be aware to ask if they are okay and want to talk.

Jane said: “I think it will make a massive difference. My daughters are typical teenagers and that’s the age group that worries me. It can cause so many problems for them later on.”

She believes it is important that support is available throughout their school lives, as pupils may not want to talk about a loved one shortly after their death but seek support some time later.

It is hoped it can be launched in Bolton after the Covid-19 crisis and then rolled out to schools in Wigan and further afield.

Jane said: “To me, this is Steve’s legacy and I want to take it into Wigan. I would love every school to adopt it.”

A ball held in November raised £16,000 for the service, but Jane is looking for businesses and organisations willing to get involved to help roll out the work.

She is also looking into setting up bereavement support drop-in coffee sessions at cafes in Bolton and Wigan.

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