Earlier hospital admission could have saved my fiance, woman tells Covid inquiry

A woman whose fiance died of Covid-19 believes he could still be alive if he had been admitted to hospital sooner instead of being sent away with antibiotics, an inquiry has heard.

Constance McCready told the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry that her partner Jim Russell was advised to go to Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow by NHS 24 after he collapsed with suspected coronavirus early in the pandemic.

However, she said he came back out five to 10 minutes after going into the hospital on March 29, 2020, having been told they did not have the facilities to test for Covid and prescribed antibiotics in case he had a chest infection.

She said his condition worsened over the next couple of days and on March 31, NHS 24 advised her to take him to the accident and emergency department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

He was admitted, moved into the intensive care unit and placed on a ventilator and spent 35 days in hospital, later being transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he died on May 4, 2020 aged 51.

Ms McCready said she is angry her fiance was not admitted to hospital sooner as she believes there is a chance he could have been saved.

She told the inquiry: “Jim was critically ill when he went in, I found out when I was reading his notes last night that he had Covid and septic shock and that’s when he was admitted and that’s why I’m so angry, because I think if he had been admitted on March 29, that would have been two days of oxygen and treatment he could have had and it probably wouldn’t have got to that stage.

“It might have, I don’t know, but that’s one of my questions, if he was admitted two days prior would he still be here, would he have got the treatment that he needed – not antibiotics, that was never going to take away Covid.”

Faryma Bahrami, junior counsel to the inquiry, asked: “Something that might have given his body a better chance when he was stronger?” and Ms McCready replied: “Yes.

“He was critical from the day he was admitted, his oxygen levels were low, way below what they should have been.

“That’s why I get angry because I think if he was in on the 29th, that would have been two days of oxygen that could have saved him.”

Ms McCready was able to video call Mr Russell with one of her daughters and the dog before he was placed on a ventilator in the early hours of April 1.

She said: “He was just terrified, you could just see he was terrified, but that was the last I ever heard him or saw his eyes open, 12.20am on April 1, he was then taken down about 2.30am and ventilated at about 3.30am.”

Lord Brailsford
The inquiry is taking place before Lord Brailsford (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She told the inquiry she could not fault anyone who cared for her fiance, who was a lorry driver affectionately known in the industry as “big gorgeous”.

The couple had been due to marry in June 2020.

Mr Russell was transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for treatment on an ECMO machine, but his condition deteriorated and the following month hospital staff rang Ms McCready to tell her there was nothing more they could do for him.

Ms McCready’s sister drove her to Aberdeen to say her final farewell on May 4, and she was told she could have an hour with him in a hospital room from 8pm.

However she says nobody told her he would die instantly when the ventilator was turned off, and lost her last 50 minutes with him alive.

She said: “I knew of someone who had been on a ventilator and they turned it off and they survived so I was hoping that he might start breathing himself, I was hoping that was going to happen.

“About 8.10pm I asked for the ventilator to be turned off and he died instantly. I was so angry that I lost 50 minutes with him being alive.

“That’s 50 minutes I could have had speaking to him when he was alive.”

An NHS Grampian spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on the care given to individuals, but speaking generally our clinical teams do their utmost to explain all aspects of care and treatment to relatives fully and sensitively.

“Anyone who is unhappy with the care they – or a relative – has received is encouraged to contact us directly. We can then discuss this with them and investigate further as required.

“We of course send our condolences to Ms McCready and all those bereaved during the pandemic.”

The inquiry, taking place in Edinburgh before Lord Brailsford, who joined remotely on Wednesday, continues.