A husband kept apart from his beloved wife for three months by coronavirus told of his heartbreak at being unable to support her before her death.
Peter Wilkins, 69, was unable to visit his wife Linda Wilkins, also 69, during the pandemic as she lay ill and confused in a care home.
The couple, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, were happily married for 47 years before Linda died unexpectedly on Wednesday.
Their last moment together was three months prior when an exception was made for them to mark their 47th wedding anniversary on August 25.
Linda lived in a care home and the couple, both born blind, were only able to communicate via telephone due to coronavirus restrictions with window visits and video calls redundant to them.
Now widowed, Peter does not want others to suffer the same heartbreaking experiences he did and wishes to raise awareness of the difficulties.
He told Manchester Evening News : "I never said goodbye to her really. Linda was lying in her bed and I was sitting further away in a chair.
“She asked me to give her a kiss and I said that I couldn’t because of the virus.
“That would have been the last time I was able to and I couldn’t put it right."
Current coronavirus restrictions bans visits to care homes.
But Peter believes partners or close relatives should be allowed to visit once or twice a week with the right precautions.
Despite the excellent care his wife received at Fernlea, he said he felt unable to support her in her final moments.
He said: "It really was a very difficult situation and I don't want anyone else to go through it.
"Linda needed me there to monitor what was happening. You just don’t get the full facts over the phone.
"I would have gone everyday under normal circumstances. I would have known if she was having problems and when I was leaving I would have gone to talk with the staff. I always used to do that before.
“I was her advocate throughout our life 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.
“It’s no criticism of the care home staff. Fernlea is an excellent nursing home.
“I don’t think she understood what was happening and in the last two months she went significantly downhill."
Peter and Linda met at Henshaws School for the Blind in Manchester and eventually settled down together in Stockport. They both loved music and would spend hours listening to the radio.
Peter said: “We had a perfectly normal marriage like any other couple would."
When Linda developed long-term health problems, Peter would often act as her advocate.
Linda had a spinal condition and facial disfigurement which they believe had been caused by anti-morning sickness drugs prescribed to her mother during pregnancy.
Three years ago, she developed rheumatoid arthritis which affected her mobility and in March, she became unable to walk.
She was admitted to Stockport’s Stepping Hill hospital as the Covid crisis hit the NHS in July and Peter was unable to visit.
Eventually Linda was discharged to Fernlea nursing home where again visiting was not allowed due to coronavirus.
Peter said: "We had occasional chats on the phone but Linda was becoming cognitively disabled which meant she couldn’t cope with certain things.
"She struggled with holding the phone and would cut herself off when it touched her face.
"When I would call her back she didn’t know how to answer it."
Although incapacitated, Linda's death was unexpected.
Peter added: "I'd realised that she may never be able to come home, that she was too disabled to come home.
"But I expected her to live for a couple of years in that nursing home. I just didn't expect her to die when she did."
Peter is now campaigning for visitors' rights in care homes while he awaits the coroner's conclusions from the inquest into his wife's death.