Tragedy of blind married couple, 47, kept away by coronavirus as they die in nursing home

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Peter and Linda Wilkins had been married for 47 years until they were cruelly separated by the coronavirus pandemic. Peter, 69, is the widow who left Andy Burnham speechless on live radio after explaining how he was unable to visit his wife for three months as she remained confused and ill in a nursing home .

Linda had unexpectedly died 24 hours earlier, at the age of 69, on Wednesday, October 21.

The two born blind, the so-called window visits to the care home weren’t good for Peter and Linda, leaving them only with phone calls to communicate.

Despite his own grief, Peter doesn’t want anyone to go through the same heartbreaking circumstances.

The reason he contacted Radio Manchester was to raise awareness of people separated from their loved ones in nursing homes.

Tours are currently banned under current coronavirus restrictions.

Peter, from Stockport, believes partners or close relatives should be allowed to visit once or twice a week with the right precautions.



Peter Wilkin holds a photo of his wife Linda, whom he was unable to visit before dying in a nursing home

Although he believes that Linda received excellent care at Fernlea in Hazle Grove, he felt unable to support his wife in the last months of his life.

An exception was made for their 47th wedding anniversary on August 25. It was the last time they saw each other.

“I never really said goodbye to him,” Peter said.

“Linda was lying in bed and I was sitting further on on a chair.

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“She asked me to give her a kiss and I said I couldn’t because of the virus.

“It would have been the last time I was able to and I couldn’t fix it.

“It’s the worst thing. I cannot go back and fix it. “



Peter Wilkin outside his home in Stockport

Both born with no sight, Peter and Linda met at Henshaws School for the Blind in Manchester and eventually settled in Stockport together. They both loved music and spent hours listening to the radio.

“We had a perfectly normal marriage like any other couple,” he said.

“We had our own interests but we spent a lot of time together and we liked each other.

“If we had listened to something on the radio, we would always comment on it, and if one of us was missing something, we would record it for the other to listen to.

Peter had always been more confident and as Linda developed long term health issues he often acted as her advocate.

Linda had spine disease and facial disfigurement which they said was caused by anti-morning sickness medication prescribed to her mother during pregnancy.

Three years ago, Linda developed rheumatoid arthritis, which made it difficult for her to stand and move around their house.

In March, she became unable to walk at all and in July was admitted to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport just as the Covid crisis hit the NHS.

Peter was unable to visit her in the hospital and felt unable to properly support his wife.

She was eventually returned to Fernlea Nursing Home where a re-visit was not allowed due to coronavirus.



Peter Wilkin holds a picture of his wife Linda: “I didn’t expect her to die when she did”

“It was really a very difficult situation and I don’t want anybody else to go through it,” says Peter.

“Linda needed me there to watch what was going on. You just don’t get all the facts over the phone.

“I would have gone there every day under normal circumstances. I would have known if she had any issues and when I left I would have gone to speak with the staff. I always used to do this before.

“I was her lawyer all of our lives because I was more confident than she was.

“It was very difficult because I wanted to be there to support her and solve any problems.

“This is not a criticism of nursing home staff. Fernlea is an excellent retirement home.

“I don’t think she understood what was going on and over the past couple of months she has gone down considerably. ”

They were offered window tours and video calls, but without any views, those options were redundant.



“It was really a very difficult situation and I don’t want anyone else to go through it”

“We had occasional conversations on the phone, but Linda was becoming cognitively disabled, which meant that she couldn’t cope with certain things.

“She was having trouble holding the phone and would cut herself off when he touched her face.

“When I called her back, she didn’t know how to answer it. ”

Although Linda was incapacitated by her health problems, her death was unexpected.

Peter said: “I realized that she might never be able to come home, that she was too disabled to come home.

“But I expected her to live for a few years in this nurse. I was happy that she was in a caring place and when I spoke to her on the phone on Saturday we had a good conversation.

“I didn’t expect her to die when she did.

Peter is still awaiting contact from the coroner regarding Linda’s cause of death.

In the meantime, he intends to campaign for visitation rights in nursing homes.

He said: “I am sure I did my best and Linda would have wanted me to do that.

“I’ve always wanted to get things done.

“I have always known what my consumer rights are and Linda was always proud when I came home with the right result. She has always trusted me so much.

“If I decide to do something, I do it.

“I would like a system to be put in place where a patient’s partners or next of kin receive one or two visits per week with the necessary precautions in place, rather than the general denial that we currently have.

“It would give people comfort and allow them to stay in touch with their loved ones.

“It would also be a way to monitor any problems that might arise. “

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