Woman loses husband to Covid, separated from children

Sleep has in fact become a luxury for the 31-year-old in the northern Bac Ninh Province.

Lying on a bed in a Covid ward at Hanoi’s National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, she turns on her phone and scrolls slowly through photos of her husband and children.

She stops to watch a video clip of her youngest daughter applying a mosquito repellent on her late father's hand. That was the last time everyone in her family was together.

Her husband, Nguyen Huu Hung, sustained a traumatic brain injury in a road accident five months ago. She had to send their three children to live with their grandparents to accompany him to Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi for treatment.

He contracted bacterial meningitis, and was transferred to the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

On May 2, after 10 days in the hospital during which time he kept getting weaker, Dung took him home so that he could spend his last days with his children.

Dung’s two youngest daughters, 9 and 5 years old, at a centralized quarantine camp in Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province. Photo courtesy of Dung.

Dung’s two younger daughters, aged nine and five, at a quarantine camp in Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province. Photo courtesy of Dung.

But three days later the hospital found someone having Covid-19, meaning Dung and her husband were contact traced, had samples taken for testing and sent to quarantine.

"As they drove us away, I looked back and saw my children ride their bikes to their grandmother's house, like I told them earlier," she says, adding since her daughters were accustomed to being away from their parents they did not fuss.

The next day both of them tested positive for Covid. When she received the news, she was devastated. Both were afraid of the virus and worried about their children and neighbors.

On the phone she tried to remain calm when telling her daughters to go into quarantine and "be good children and wait for Mom and Dad to come back."

The children said "yes," just like the many times before when she would tell them she had to go to the hospital to take care of their father.

Every day Dung’s sister and brother-in-law, who were in the same quarantine camp as the children, called her so that they could talk to their parents.

"I told them I would help wash their clothes, but they would do it themselves," Dung's sister says.

During the five months their mother went to take care of their father, the children had become used to living by themselves and taking care of each other.

Vu Dang Bien, 33, Dung's brother-in-law, had volunteered to quarantine to be with his wife and help can take care of their three-year-old daughter and two nieces.

He says: "They did everything by themselves, including getting food from the kitchen for dinner and eating. We stayed close to them just for moral support."

At the hospital, Dung and her husband shared a room. But after 10 days his condition worsened and he had to be transferred to intensive care.

Though he was in a coma, Dung told him to "try and get well to be able to reunite with me and the kids."

Alone in the hospital bed, she would feel restless. The phone would be close to her bed, and she would turn it on to check even if when it did not ring.

She wanted to call the doctor to check on her husband, but was afraid of disturbing the medics. Having spent many days at the hospital, she knew how stressful their work was.

A day later, on May 16, she received a call from the doctor. She burst into tears after speaking into the phone for a few seconds.

She had wished she would have the health to take care of her husband, even if it meant spending the rest of her life in hospital, so that her children would have a father.

But her husband died, no one by his side, while she was upstairs and hoping.

"I took a bath and cleaned him three days before he passed away. I only regret not seeing him one last time," she says.

The only thing she could do was putting a black profile picture on her social media account to mourn her husband and to let others know about hid death . His ashes remain at a crematorium in Hanoi unable to be taken home because of the raging pandemic.

Messages and calls of encouragement have been pouring in. The more she is comforted the more anguish she feels, and so after a point has not dared open them to read.

When she falls asleep because she is tired she dreams about her husband. For more than 10 days she has only dared nap during the day.

Dung receives donations from a sponsor. Photo courtesy of Dung.

Dung receives a donation from a sponsor. Photo courtesy of Dung.

She did not tell her children their father had died, simply ignoring their questions "where is Dad?" But one day her broken voice told Duy, her 12-year-old son, all he wanted to know. The boy, eating nothing, burst into tears.

The next morning, the test results showed Duy also had Covid. He had to head to a field hospital in Gia Binh District.

Dung says: "My husband died. Now my son has tested positive for Covid; I am completely devastated. For four days, I have not eaten or slept."

For the first few days Duy missed his sisters and was sad his dad had died. Fortunately, he is in the same facility as one of his uncles and has made friends with a boy his age.

When other people in the camp ask if he misses his sisters, he says: "I miss them, but there is not enough money in my phone account for me to call them."

The family’s situation has been shared by nurses, doctors and many other people on social networks.

Thousands of people, both at home and abroad, have supported Duy's mother and siblings by donating essential supplies and more than VND600 million (nearly $26,000) in cash.

The chairman of Mao Dien Commune, Nguyen Nhan Hoan, said: "Many people have sent gifts to us for passing on to Dung's family."

Dung has to pay more than VND100 million (over $4,300) she borrowed for her husband's treatment, and hope to keep the rest of the donations to pay for her children's education.

But she says people should stop supporting her and instead help others in difficulty as a result of the pandemic.

"I thank everyone for caring for and helping me and my children. I am much better now. After the epidemic is over, I will work to support my children."



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