By bearing my soul I can only hope it will bring home how we must all take heed of Government advice on staying safe and I truly hope no-one has to go through the emotional rollercoaster we have suffered as a family.

Seven weeks ago, Paul - 59 years old with no underlying health issues and not overweight - tested positive with Covid having had a couple of weeks feeling quite unwell.

After a positive result on Friday, Paul became very unwell and I called 111.

Paul was taken to A&E at Southend and quickly taken to a Covid ward where he remained for 48 hours.

Nieve (Paul’s daughter, 18) and I spoke to Paul and he said he felt a little better, told us he loved us and hopefully would see us back at home in a couple of days.

At 3am on Wednesday morning, the phone rang.

The Bolton News:

Sadly missed - Paul and Jane Butler

Paul was on his way to ICU to be put in an induced coma. My world fell apart.

I cried for hours on my own just waiting until a sensible time, as silly as it seems to call Kelly Thompson, Paul’s niece, and my sister, Lynn Day.

For the next few days we couldn’t eat, sleep, concentrate on anything just waiting.

Four days later and still in a coma, Paul’s life hung in the balance.

I received a call from a very “matter of fact” consultant telling me that Paul was to be transferred to a special Covid Unit in Basildon Hospital.

The Bolton News:

Couple - Jane and Paul

Southend had reached its quota of Covid patients in ICU and a bed had to be made available for a non-Covid patient. Because Paul was the most “stable” patient, he had drawn the short straw.

The consultants and ICU staff that I spoke with were amazing and always happy to answer any questions. Two days after Paul’s transfer my mobile rang with a FaceTime call.

A cheery nurse called Elaine greeted Nieve and I and said Paul had come out of the coma.

Nieve and I were beside ourselves with excitement and nearly passed out when, on seeing Nieve he said “Hello Sweet”.

Elaine was amazing, so kind and caring and FaceTimed us twice a day.

Although a little confused, things were looking good and there was talk of moving Paul from ICU.

The following day the call came to say Paul had become extremely unwell and was back in a coma. An infection was most likely the cause.

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Family - Paul with his wife Jane and daughter Nieve in 2018

Now this can happen when a patient has many lines, in but one would hope in ICU and with the current situation this wouldn’t happen, I also question would it have happened had Paul have not been transferred.

We will never know.

We then, as a family, had the most horrendous couple of weeks. As told by several consultants, Paul’s behaviour was typical of Covid.

Having to live every day on tenterhooks - will it be good news? Will it be bad? This is truly horrendous.

A day felt like a week - no sleep, trying to be brave and stay positive, crying on my own, crying with Nieve, crying inside, it was a pain like no other.

On December 5, we got the call to say things were not good at all and as much as the team had tried there hardest, they didn’t know what to do next.

I, Nieve, Kelly and Lynn stayed up until 4am before exhaustion took over.

On Sunday, December 6 at 2.30pm, we took the call.

All I can remember is wailing like a wounded animal, a pain in my chest, breathless, my head feeling heavy and feeling like my heart was about to burst from my chest.

They explained that sadly there was nothing to be done to save Paul and that Nieve and I could go and sit with him until the end.

My first reaction was “No, I can’t do it, please stop this from happening, it’s not true, please tell me it’s not true”.

At nearly 19 years old and a real daddy’s girl, Nieve was adamant she wanted to see her beloved daddy. She reasoned that if she went and regretted it, she would get over it. If she did not go, she would regret it and would never get over it.

The Bolton News:

Dad and daughter - Nieve with dad Paul

We could sit with Paul while he was still on life support and if we wished, could remain once support was withdrawn.

We all decided we didn’t want to be there once support was stopped and wanted to remember our darling Paul still breathing.

Nieve wanted to see her daddy on her own first and took a Build a Bear that she did when she was four that said “love you mummy, love you daddy”.

Now believe me or not, but that bear hadn’t worked for a couple of years but when Nieve cuddled it on that day, it worked.

The love of my life, lying there while we said goodbye was the worst thing I have ever been through, the pain of seeing Nieve was like a knife in my heart.

The Bolton News:

Missed - dad Paul

Kelly and Nieve left and I remained and chatted to Paul on the advice of his nurse as she said the hearing is the last thing to go.

I gave Paul a final kiss and dragged myself away.

The one thing that remains with us was Paul’s consultant.

He came from his office and said: “This shouldn’t have happened, we really, really did not expect this.

“This time round things are different, treatments that we have been giving are not working. I really am so sorry”.

That poor man looked broken, I felt his pain.

I think we all get wrapped up in our own feelings and forget that these wonderful NHS staff have a heart too.

Would you want to put your loved ones through what we’ve been through? Seeing what goes on in a Covid ICU is not nice, believe me.

Please just stop for a moment and digest - this virus is real, it kills, it breaks families, and we can all stop this.

Do the right thing.

Wear your masks, wash your hands, and give people space.

I truly hope that as painful as it has been writing that this might help save another family from this pain.