A HEARTBREAKING message from a dying father has revealed how desperate he was for a COVID-19 vaccination.
The text message was sent by 45-year-old Stephen Doyle to his ex-partner Nichola, the mother of three of his children.
The death of unvaccinated but otherwise healthy Stephen, who died from COVID-19 complications on January 3, has “devastated” his relatives and friends.
Stephen lived in Runcorn but had many relatives based in North Wales.
His cousin Michelle Pierce, a nurse practitioner at Llandudno Hospital, spoke on behalf of the family.
She said they wanted people to realise coronavirus was affecting younger, healthy people who haven’t been vaccinated – and their families too.
Michelle, 54, said: “When Stephen was in hospital, he texted his former partner Nichola and said, ‘I’m getting the jabs as soon as I can’.
“He said he never wanted to go through this again. Sadly, he never got the chance to get vaccinated. It was too late for him.
“He was against the vaccination before he went in, and I would say he was influenced by all the talk on social media.
“He had no underlying health conditions. He was fit and healthy.”
The former docker, who was working as a dispatch supervisor at the time of his death, had already been in hospital because of COVID-19, but was discharged with antibiotics in mid-December.
Michelle said: “We don’t know whether he discharged himself or not but he was self-isolating.
“His ex-partner Nichola went to see him on December 22 and found him very unwell.”
She called 999 immediately and Stephen was readmitted to hospital with breathing difficulties and very low oxygen levels in his blood.
Within 24 hours, he was moved to the hospital’s intensive therapy unit (ITU) and the decision to put him on a ventilation machine, to take over his breathing, was taken on Christmas Day.
The family say he also had a deep vein thrombosis in his leg, which was concerning the medical team.
Michelle added: “Coming up to New Year, the medical staff were quite positive and they were trying to get him off ventilation, but his body was fighting it and they had to stop.
“He still needed mechanical ventilation to keep him breathing.
“We got the call on January 2 to say his condition had deteriorated.”
Doctors told the family Stephen had developed bilateral pneumothorax, meaning both of his lungs had collapsed.
Clinicians had to insert four drains into his chest to help him breathe.
Lungs in COVID-19 patients can become less flexible, which means more pressure is needed to ventilate them. This can result in a collapsed lung.
Sadly, in Stephen’s case, both failed.
Michelle said: “The medical team at Warrington Hospital called us in and explained they were running out of options.
“On January 3, they told the family there was nothing they could do. So, the decision was taken to withdraw the treatment.”
Michelle said Stephens’s mum Janet, sister Nicola and his former partner want people to understand COVID-19 was not just affecting the vulnerable.
She added: “People need to know this is happening to healthy people. If we can save one person by making them get their vaccinations, it’s worth telling our story.
“He was just a funny guy. He liked to make people laugh and was always up for laugh. He loved spending time with his kids and making them all happy.”
Michelle, who also lost her unvaccinated father-in-law to COVID-19, revealed the whole family is “devastated and numb, angry and frustrated” – and feel their heartache could have been avoided.
She added: “Stephen’s mum, my auntie, doesn’t want anyone to go through what we are going through.
“A lot of people don’t need to go through this, do they? They should just get vaccinated.
“All the people who we know, who were vaccinated but caught COVID, didn’t have severe symptoms. People believe things with no evidence.
“Please go out and get vaccinated and prevent your family going through what we as a family are going through – it could be avoided.”
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s executive medical director, Dr Nick Lyons, said: “I can only offer condolences to Michelle and her family for their sad loss.
“I also want to salute their courage in thinking of others so soon after losing a loved one.
“They are of course absolutely right – getting a full course of COVID vaccinations is by far the best way of protecting your health during the pandemic.
“I would urge people to listen to their story and make arrangements to be vaccinated now, by going to our dedicated vaccination page at: www.bcuhb.nhs.wales/covid-19/covid-19-vaccinations.”