COVID-19: UK's longest-known COVID patient was 'begged' by wife not to end treatment before he died

·4-min read

The wife of the UK's longest-known COVID patient has revealed she "begged" him not to withdraw his treatment after he told her: "I just want to die" - as she paid tribute to him following his death.

Jason Kelk, 49, had spent more than a year in intensive care at St James' Hospital in Leeds after contracting coronavirus in March 2020.

His wife Sue told Sky News he died less than 90 minutes after his ventilator was switched off following his transfer to a hospice on Friday morning.

He was surrounded by Mrs Kelk, his parents and his sister when he died at 12.40pm yesterday.

Mrs Kelk said her husband had made the "very brave decision" two weeks ago that he would end his treatment because "he didn't want to live like this anymore".

The primary school IT worker had suffered a "big setback" in his recovery at the end of April and "nobody could say to Jason that he was going to get back to where he'd been", she added.

Mrs Kelk told Sky News: "He really wasn't very well at all. He just said to me: 'I don't want to do this anymore. I can't do this anymore. I just want to die.'

"I said: 'I understand if that's what you want to do, that's fine by me.' I broke down later on, begging him not to do it but he was adamant.

"I really respect what he wanted to do because he had struggled.

"He made the very brave decision. I thought it was very courageous."

Mrs Kelk said that when her husband's parents visited him following his decision to withdraw his treatment "the first thing he said to them was: 'I don't want to carry on, I want to die'."

"We all had a bit of a go but he wasn't going to change his mind," she added.

Mr Kelk had wanted to die at home but it was not possible to transfer him there, so he was moved to St Gemma's Hospice in Leeds.

Mrs Kelk said the family were unsure how long he would survive without a ventilator and it was "probably about an hour/hour and a half".

"It was very peaceful," she said. "His breathing just slowed down and then it stopped.

"His mum and dad were holding his hand. His sister was there. I was there. It was really lovely."

In her final words to her husband, Mrs Kelk told him "it was okay, that he'd fought the fight and he didn't need to fight anymore… we're here and we love you".

After Mr Kelk died, she said she stayed with her husband's body "talking to him and telling him I loved him".

"I had a lovely hour just me and Jason," Mrs Kelk added.

"He was my soulmate. We were opposite sides of the same coin - different but joined together."

In his final days, Mr Kelk had seen his grandchildren, stepchildren, some of his closest friends and his boss, as they said goodbye to him.

But from Wednesday, he had not been able to communicate and only occasionally opened his eyes, Mrs Kelk said.

She said ultimately she wished her husband had died in April last year so he would have avoided his 14-month battle with the virus.

"At times it's not been very pleasant for Jason," Mrs Kelk added.

"I could never see him. Visiting was so restricted - an hour here or an hour there."

The 63-year-old former nurse said she "blames the government for not acting fast enough" in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Mr Kelk leaves five stepchildren and eight grandchildren, including two born in the past year who he never met - and another on the way.

In February, Mrs Kelk revealed that doctors feared her husband may need a ventilator for the rest of his life.

At that point, he had managed to take his first steps in 10 months and he was well enough to be brought outside the hospital to meet family members.

Over the following weeks, Mrs Kelk said her husband had started drinking cups of tea and eating soup and was using Facebook Messenger "virtually every single day".

She had even started making plans for his return home by launching a crowdfunding appeal to help convert their property.

But last month Mrs Kelk told Sky News she feared he had "given up" after his condition worsened and he started suffering "fainting attacks".

Although he had spent several weeks off a ventilator in recent months, he needed to use one again after his condition worsened and he still required kidney dialysis.

Doctors feared he would always need a tracheostomy tube to remove fluid that would build up in his throat and windpipe, Mrs Kelk said.

Mr Kelk was admitted to hospital on 31 March last year - shortly after Derek Draper, the husband of TV presenter Kate Garraway, who also fell seriously ill with COVID.

Mr Draper returned home after a year in hospital but requires round-the-clock care.