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'Horrible for her, horrible for the family': Bishop's Stortford great-grandmother Elizabeth Leslie-Rowe one of 35 to die with Covid-19 in Princess Alexandra Hospital

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The family of a 92-year-old Bishop' Stortford great-grandmother who died alone in hospital with Covid-19 say they will remember the enjoyment she got from everyone being together.

Liz Cannon, 67, said that it was so sad that her mother Elizabeth Leslie-Rowe, known as Beth, should come to the end of her life all by herself in Harlow's Princess Alexandra Hospital, as no family were allowed in to see her for infection control reasons.

"It's just awful. She must have died on her own as I cannot imagine anybody just sitting there with her for two hours – they're all so busy. It was horrible for her and horrible for the family," said Liz.

Elizabeth Leslie-Rowe with some of her great grandchildren (32854762)
Elizabeth Leslie-Rowe with some of her great grandchildren (32854762)

"We hear all these numbers every day, but we forget that they are actually people, they are somebody's family."

Mrs Leslie-Rowe is the oldest of 35 patients with Covid-19 who have died at Princess Alexandra, which is the general hospital for Bishop's Stortford. The youngest is 51. On Friday the hospital announced that two of its patients had become the first without underlying health conditions to die there.

Beth, who lived with her disabled son Guy in Jackson Wharf, off Adderley Road, had not long moved into care home Elmhurst in Windhill following several stays in hospital before Christmas after fracturing her hip in a fall and then suffering a minor stroke.

"She recovered from that and was absolutely fine, and came home to her flat for two weeks, but then rang me to say she couldn't cope any more on her own," said Liz.

"We managed to get her and my brother, who suffers from short-term memory problems, into Elmhurst at the end of February and then two-and-a-half weeks ago it went into lockdown and I couldn't go and see her.

"She was still OK until a week ago when she developed a cough. The home called the doctor, who gave her antibiotics, and then she rang me on Sunday morning (March 29) but I couldn't understand what she was saying. I spoke to staff and they said they had called an ambulance.

"They took her to Harlow and then they rang me to say that she wasn't going to make it through the night. She died about 11.30pm."

Liz, who lives in Bentfield Close, Stansted, with husband Peter, said that it was not until after her mother had died that a swab was taken and the hospital contacted her on Wednesday (April 1) to reveal that she had had Covid-19, the severe acute respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"We have no idea where she got it from," said Liz. "Elmhurst had been in lockdown, no-one could have any visitors, and I can't fault them."

Liz had to tell her brother Guy about their mother's death. "He was very upset, but they're looking after him at Elmhurst and he now has all Mum's photos that were in her room in with him and all her things. We're not allowed to see him, but I speak with him on the phone and he's doing OK."

She remembered the regular coffee mornings she shared with her mum in town.

"She used to live in Spain with my dad, Michael, who passed away about 13 years ago, and they stayed with us for a couple of months on their return. I later found her a flat in town. I used to go out every day with her and Guy to meet up for a coffee.

"She loved just pottering about, she kept flowers on her balcony, but what she really used to love was our family barbecues. The photo was on her birthday last year with some of her great-grandchildren."

Liz, who used to work as an editorial assistant on the former Herts & Essex Observer in the 1990s, is the second eldest of four children after Guy, 69. She has a younger brother, Ivor, 65. Her sister Sue died two years ago at the age of 60 from cancer.

With nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, Liz said that they would be allowed to hold only a small private funeral.

"We will have a small cremation and hopefully later in the year we'll get the whole family together and have a memorial service for her."

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