A husband forced apart from his terminally ill wife due to Covid-19 restrictions has finally been allowed to visit her in hospital after almost one month apart.
Bill Hudson’s wife Carol is receiving pallative care for a brain tumour at East Lothian Community Hospital near Haddington.
In line with national guidance, NHS Lothian suspended patient visiting on March 24 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak to protect vulnerable patients and staff.
But when it comes to end of life care, sometimes visits can take place – although they’re usually judged on a case-by-case basis and involve discussions with senior medical staff.
“Do I have to wait until she’s dying before I actually see her?” Mr Hudson told STV News.
“She puts on a brave face, she will say she’s fed up…she’s said ‘can you not sneak me out the window?’ – half-jokingly.”
After three weeks apart, staff at NHS Lothian organised a “sanctuary” area at the hospital so Mr Hudson could visit without putting staff and other patients at risk.
“I have to wear full PPE, we stand two metres away, we can’t touch, we can’t hold hands, we can’t have everything…but I can sing to her.”
Mr Hudson, a musician and journalist, wanted to bring a ukelele or a mouth organ into the hospital to play a song for his wife, but the PPE means he can only use his voice.
She likes to join in the singing. It’s their way of staying connected, against the odds.
‘I have to wear full PPE, we stand two metres away, we can’t touch, we can’t hold hands, we can’t have everything…but I can sing to her.’Bill Hudson
In 2016, Mrs Hudson was diagnosed with a brain tumor for the second time.
“We talk about unprecedented times now, but that day in 2016 was my unprecedented time, said Mr Hudson.”
The couple got married at Gretna Green 11 months later.
“On the day we took our vows I just thought, I’m not really a praying person but I thought ‘God, if you could just give us two years of good life’…and he did.
“I just need to make sure Carol’s life is as fun and happy as it possibly can be – that’s why contact and access is so vital.”Bill Hudson
“I just need to make sure Carol’s life is as fun and happy as it possibly can be – that’s why contact and access is so vital.”
Their honeymoon period was stolen from them by numerous rounds of chemotherapy, scans, and hospital visits. But still, Mrs Hudson’s brain tumour continued to grow.
Last September, while receiving home care, she had a fit and was transferred to St. Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh for palliative care.
Mr Hudson used to visit her every day until the coronavirus outbreak, but now once a week wearing full PPE is the best option that he has to make the most of the time he has left with his wife.
“It’s not perfect, but I’m so grateful I’ve got this far – I won’t give up.”
Guidelines around palliative care and coronavirus are changing and vary between hospices.
A spokesperson for Marie Curie said: “Organisations such as ourselves have had to implement policies that might differ from others – like locally, what NHS Lothian, St Columba’s hospice and ourselves do can differ.”
“This is for reasons such as our availability of the correct PPE, infection control procedures and whether we have positive or suspected cases of coronavirus. All of us are continuing to review guidelines and policies can be tweaked/ changed.”
They also said options were being considered to treat terminally ill patients on a case-by-case basis at its Edinburgh hospice. At the moment, guidance stipulates a maximum of two people from the same household can visit for a maximum of two hours or a maximum of four hours following clinical assessment.
The spokesperson added: “If the patient doesn’t worsen as is expected, we would hope to allow another visit. However, if the patient has tested positive or displays symptoms of coronavirus then we will not be allowing visitors. We are doing our very best to facilitate video calls/ etc to keep families in touch.
“It’s a very difficult situation, both for families and staff, and we strongly believe at Marie Curie that families should have the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones,” the spokesperson added.