Rachel McKinney, 35, was dashed to hospital after suddenly showing signs of a stroke. An MRI scan showed she had inflammation of the brain and her condition rapidly deteriorated, Manchester Evening News reports.
Due to tough Covid restrictions, the care home nurse died on April 3 with no one by her side after going into a coma at Salford Royal Hospital. A decision was made to switch off her life support machine.
Her heartbroken sister Gemma said: “Nobody was able to see her before she went into the coma – she was on her own with no family there.
“The hospital told her husband and her mum that her condition was terminal over the phone and my mum couldn’t even hear.
“It’s upsetting because we couldn’t be there when she really needed us,” she said.
“There is a lot of anger and upset.”
Covid restrictions meant Rachel’s family were unable to accompany her in hospital.
Gemma added: “She lost her mobility and couldn’t leave the hospital and so she wasn’t able to see anyone.
“She couldn’t speak and lost all movement in her body. She was on Facetime to her family crying.
“It has been a complete shock”
“It is hard enough dealing with a death but the fact nobody was allowed to see her for five weeks was really difficult. I find the visitation policy really inhumane.”
Rachel, who leaves behind her husband Kevin, stepson and two sons aged eight and 12, first experienced symptoms of confusion and slurred speech and these worsened quickly.
She suffered seizures before she went into a coma.
But grieving Gemma says the family, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, have since found out that Rachel died from a very rare form of multiple sclerosis.
The condition is terminal but usually patients have several years of living with the condition before they become as ill as Rachel did.
Her family have requested her medical records and instructed a consultant in London to look at her case.
“What we don’t understand is how she seemingly developed this so quickly,” Gemma said.
“Until December she had been absolutely fine. She was a fit and healthy woman.”
As she worked in a care home, Rachel had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December and January and reported classic side effects. However, there is currently no evidence provided by the hospital to suggest any direct link between Rachel’s death and her having received the jab.
Salford Royal Hospital had to follow national policy to restrict visits to wards to minimise the risk of spread of COVID-19.
Current inpatient visiting at the hospital remains suspended except in the ‘most exceptional circumstances’ and authorised by the senior nursing or midwifery team.
Since the death, Gemma is now raising money for Rachel’s husband, who is at risk of losing their family home.
“Rachel was the main income in her household as Kevin worked part time and mainly looked after the boys,” Gemma said.
“If we can’t raise some money for him he’s going to lose the house within a matter of weeks.
“Just before her death, Rachel cancelled her direct debit on her insurance as she was looking around to find one that covered Covid as she worked in a care home.
“It is just heartbreaking.”
Northern Care Alliance NHS Group Chief Nurse Libby McManus said: “Our thoughts are with Rachel’s family at this very sad time and we are sorry they could not spend more time with her before she sadly died.
“We have the utmost sympathy for her family and the many other families that have found themselves unable to visit their loved ones in hospital during the pandemic.
“We have worked really hard to offer alternative ways for families to communicate and stay in touch with both their relatives who are in hospital and the staff caring for them but we recognise that nothing can replace being with someone in person.
“We will be making contact with Rachel’s family to ensure they have the opportunity to tell us about their experience, share their concerns and ask us any questions.
“We also want to make sure we offer them all the support they need at this devastating time for their family.”
You can donate to Gemma’s fundraising page here.