Partner's moving tribute to devoted Wigan midwife one year after death from coronavirus
A dedicated midwife who delivered thousands of babies during her 30-year career has been remembered by her partner, ahead of the first anniversary of her death from coronavirus.
Linda Clarke was regularly stopped in the street by people who recognised her and introduced to children she helped to come into the world years earlier.
She was devoted to her job at Wigan Infirmary, but also loved to travel the globe with her partner David Sheasby and was a huge fan of northern soul music.
A short remembrance ceremony will be held at the hospital’s Roy Hartley memorial garden at 3pm on Friday, April 16 in honour of Linda, with a plaque expected to be unveiled.
David, 64, said: “She was very work-orientated. She lived for her job. She loved being a midwife.”
Linda was born in Kirkcaldy in Scotland and moved to England to work as a nurse and then a midwife, initially in Oldham and then Burnley.
She settled in Wigan around 30 years ago, working at Billinge Hospital and then Wigan Infirmary, becoming the delivery suite co-ordinator.
Although she had reduced her hours to work part-time, Linda, 66, was still devoted to working on the maternity ward after being employed by the NHS for 43 years.
David said: “She worked with a lot of good people. They were more than friends to her, she looked upon them as sisters.”
She lived in Shevington with her husband and their son Alistair, before moving to Gidlow Lane when the marriage ended.
Linda and David met in 2009 at northern soul events held in Wigan and the surrounding area.
He said: “We bumped into each other and got to know each other. I ended up spending more time in Wigan than I did at home.”
The couple shared a passion for travelling and went to many countries around the world, often choosing to go as back-packers rather than stay in luxury hotels.
David, who described his partner as “adventurous”, said they often received “funny looks” when they told people in hostels how old they were, but they loved travelling that way.
He said: “She had only ever stopped in four-star hotels before and going back-packing was a new experience for her.”
Among the places they visited were Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, USA, India, Brazil and Argentina.
They were wowed by Iguazu Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, went on a music trip to Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans, saw tigers during a safari in India and visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
They also left their backpacks at home for a Caribbean cruise.
The couple had visited many countries but still had more places to go, including a trip to Detroit and Nashville.
But it was becoming more and more expensive for Linda to secure travel insurance, as she had health problems.
So instead Linda got a dog, a cockerpoo named Angus, in March last year and planned to spend more time at home in Wigan.
David, who lives in Tamworth in Staffordshire, said: “She looked upon Wigan as her home. She was an adopted Wiganer.
“We used to watch the rugby together. She loved it when they got to the Grand Final and we went to Old Trafford.”
Linda was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands, 12 years ago and took 14 tablets each day.
She also had problems with her lungs and kidneys, with doctors considering whether she needed dialysis.
David said while Linda believed she could “take anything life threw at her”, she was frightened of catching pneumonia and believed she would die if she contracted coronavirus.
Nevertheless, she was “very grumpy” when she was told to go home from work and shield in March last year, as she wanted to be in the hospital caring for patients.
Linda went to Wigan Infimary on March 28 with an Addison’s crisis and was tested for coronavirus, but did not receive the results before she was discharged that same day.
It was only when she returned on March 31 after being unwell that she was told she had tested positive for Covid-19.
David said her symptoms included a continuous cough, feeling weak and struggling to breathe.
As her condition deteriorated, Linda was moved to the intensive care unit and placed on a ventilator to help her breathe.
David was not allowed to visit and spoke to her for a final time by telephone on April 6, before she was taken to the ICU.
He said: “She was very breathless and coughing continuously. She was telling me she was dying. That will always stick in my mind. She kept saying she was dying, she was dying and I told her she wasn’t and she would get better.
“She was scared and she did say she was going to fight it with all she’s got. She said she was going to get out of it.”
Unfortunately, Linda did not recover and on April 17 David received a phone call telling him to go to the hospital to say goodbye.
Sadly he could not travel from Staffordshire to be with her, but Alistair made it to the hospital to be with his mother for an hour before she died.
David said: “You read about people who die at hospital surrounded by strangers but that didn’t happen with her. All the doctors and nurses knew her. I think all the midwifery staff went to see her in PPE and masks. Before her son got there for the last time, her best friend’s sister was sitting with her because she worked on the ward.”
David was also unable to attend Linda’s funeral, instead watching it online to pay his final respects.
He said: “If this had been ordinary times, we would have packed out the biggest church in Wigan for Linda because she was that popular. Everyone knew her at the hospital. We would walk through the centre of Wigan and people would stop her because she delivered their child. We would go to soul nights around Wigan and someone would come over to say hello.”
He says the past year has been “terrible”, as birthdays and Christmas passed without Linda.
He has also seen more information uncovered about coronavirus and has already received his vaccine.
In a message to Wiganers, he said: “Get the vaccine as soon as it’s offered to you. Get the second dose too. Until we are all vaccinated, it will not go away.
“People will tell you coronavirus doesn’t exist and it’s a Government consipiracy, but they should have listened to Linda when she was on her death bed.
“I’m 100 per cent supportive of the NHS, the Government, the volunteers, the ambulance service and police, everyone who has done what they do.”
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here