A much-loved Surrey grandmother who was given a second chance at life thanks to a double lung transplant has died after contracting Covid-19 for the second time, despite having both jabs.
Marion Sartin-Frith, a ‘strong and determined’ mother-of-five and grandmother-of-ten from Addlestone, died at St Peter’s Hospital in London on August 16 with coronavirus.
Due to hospital restrictions, only Marion’s husband of 14 years, Gary, was able to be next to her in her final moments.
Gary, 54, said: ‘All through her illnesses we have been able to be by her side and give her the love she needed. But this last time we couldn’t, we were powerless. Sitting there, waiting for a phone call. It’s heartbreaking.’
Marion, 63, had a double lung transplant in 2010. The operation was needed as Marion suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD.
The major operation was done with keyhole surgery and, incredibly, Marion was out of hospital within 19 days.
Gary said: ‘It just shows the strength and determination she had. She was on oxygen at home and without it she wouldn’t have made it to the garden gate.’
Her family feared she would not have made it through the next winter had the lung transplant not happened.
Gary said: ‘Every year she had two birthdays after that. Her normal one and then she shared mine, because she had her transplant on my birthday.
‘We celebrated it and the donor family are always in our minds. It’s such a wonderful thing to do, give something else another chance at life.’
Due to the immunosuppressant drugs Marion was taking, which lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ, her immune system was significantly weakened.
This put Marion in the Covid-19 clinically extremely vulnerable group which defines people as being at very high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus.
Before rumours of the pandemic even starting hitting the headlines, Marion was in hospital with what doctors suspected was Covid-19.
It put her in hospital for several weeks during December 2019, and she was readmitted in the New Year.
Marion’s 31-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, said: ‘They didn’t know what it was at the start. It was called ‘unknown strain of flu’. It was a few months later when my mum was in clinic that a doctor said to her that it was Covid.
‘We didn’t think she was going to make it through. It was extremely scary. She was really ill, sickness, breathing problems, the lung function was very low.’
Although she was deemed well enough to return home in March, Gary said Marion’s energy levels never returned to what they were pre-December.
Once home she was forced to begin self-isolating as the first lockdown was announced.
Having to be additionally careful due to her vulnerabilities, Marion did not see her children and grandchildren in person for long periods of time.
Kayleigh added: ‘It was hard. We had FaceTime and spoke to her every single day.’
By July this year, Marion was well enough to go on a mini-break with Gary to Blackpool but it was this trip where she would go on to contract coronavirus for the second time.
A day after arriving, Marion got pinged and was named as a close contact of someone who had tested positive. The pair made their way home and isolated, but by July 28 both Gary and her tested positive.
They had each received their two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, but Gary admitted he was ‘terrified’.
Gary was initially hit worse, whereas Marion suffered with chronic headaches and lost her sense of taste and smell. Until July 31, when she collapsed at home.
Marion deteriorated over the coming days in hospital and all the while no visitors were allowed to see her in the Covid ward.
In the early hours of August 16, Gary got a phone call he had been dreading. ‘I knew when they rang me she wasn’t going to make it,’ he added.
Gary was told his children, although all over the age of 18, weren’t allowed to visit and say their final goodbyes in person.
He said: ‘I went into the room, it was the first time I’d seen her in 17 days. She looked so fragile. I took hold of her hand and felt the most gentle squeeze when I asked if she could hear me.’
Gary was by Marion’s side when she died, and says he hasn’t come to terms with losing her.
‘I’m keeping myself busy. Once there is nothing left to do I think it’s going to hit me hard. The children have been brilliant,’ he said.
Marion’s case has made her family more aware than ever that Covid-19 has not gone away.
He added: ‘They [the Government] dropped the restrictions. And when you have people all around you not doing what they’re meant to do – the two metre rule isn’t happening in supermarkets anymore – it’s just frustrating to see.
‘It [Covid-19] is still rife. People have got to be so careful.’
Marion’s funeral is being organised at the moment and two days later her daughter Kayleigh will be jumping 10,000ft out of a plane to raise money for Harefield Hospital.
The hospital was responsible for Marion’s life-saving lung operation in 2010.