FOR Andy Leaman's small, close knit family, life will never be the same again.

Andy's mum, dad and father-in-law have died from coronavirus, devastating his nine-year-old daughter Anna who has lost three grandparents in four weeks.

Now the 42-year-old is telling his traumatic story to the Glasgow Times in the hope that people will continue to follow social distancing guidelines and help stop other families facing the same heartbreak.

On Saturday, March 7 this year, just five days after the first confirmed Scottish case of Covid-19, Andy's family held a small 40th birthday party for his partner Lynsey Chamber's sister Wendy.

Lynsey and Wendy's dad, Dougie Chambers, came to dinner on the Monday evening and seemed, like the rest of the family, to be in good health.

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Andy said: "There were no rules or regulations at that time saying that you couldn't meet up. You weren't allowed events of more than 500 people but this was just a small party for family and friends.

"We look back at that in hindsight and wonder if the government had moved faster and locked things down earlier, would the outcome have been different?"

On the Tuesday night, March 10, Dougie began to feel unwell with fever and flu-like symptoms, so he followed the government guidelines and immediately began to self-isolate.

The following day Andy suddenly became ill too, quickly followed by Lynsey and Anna, who had a rash along with the flu-like symptoms her parents shared.

They began to self-isolate also with Andy's parents, Mary and Andy, both in their 70s, bringing them groceries and leaving them in the garden to be collected.

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Dougie, who was active with volunteering and hill walking, had COPD and asthma and, after seven days at home, still felt unwell.

Lynsey drove her dad to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on March 18 where he was put on a nebuliser and treated with antibiotics.

A test for Covid-19 came back positive and he was kept on a ward where the family was not allowed to visit, keeping in touch by WhatsApp messages and video calls.

The 66-year-old's condition worsened and he was taken to the intensive care unit where he was placed on a ventilator.

Andy said: "It wasn't until we lost contact with Dougie and he was on a ventilator in ICU that this really hit.

"Although he had other health conditions he was a really fit person. He volunteered for Wendy's workplace in Cambuslang, Revolve.

"He had been in doing it up because he was a plumber but had a lot of other strings to his bow, like joinery.

"He was a fit person who enjoyed hillwalking. But it was so swift, so quick, that it caught him unawares."

After 10 days of being in a coma, a doctor phoned Lynsey and Wendy to say that their dad would not recover and they would have to make the decision to switch off his life support machine.

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Wendy by this time was showing signs of having coronavirus also and so, at 6pm on March 26, Lynsey stayed alone with her father while he slipped away.

Meanwhile, Mary and Andy Snr were also coming down with flu like symptoms and moved to self-isolating.

The couple had been married for more than 50 years and Andy described them as "inseparable".

They utterly doted on their only grandchild, Anna, and Andy Snr would pick her up from school when her parents were working and she stayed with all three of her grandparents at evenings and some weekends.

Mary, who also had COPD, had survived pneumonia three years ago, having been in intensive care, and so Andy became worried when she didn't show any signs of improvement.

Andy said: "When my mum and dad started showing symptoms I'd kind of prepared myself after Dougie's death for my mum being very ill.

"I'd prepared myself to think that if my mum gets this then there's no chance of survival for her.

"But not being able to go and see them or be in the house with them, that was really, really hard to take.

"It had been over a fortnight since I'd been to see my mum and dad and that was really the worse part then."

Andy called NHS24 on the evening of Friday, March 27 and was told to monitor the situation over the weekend and call her GP if his mum was no better on Monday.

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On the Monday Andy's dad called to say Mary was feeling a bit better but was tired and had gone back to bed for a sleep.

At 6pm Andy's dad phoned again to say he'd gone to check on Mary, 72, but could find no signs of life.

Andy raced to his parent's home, in Castlemilk, but was met by a paramedic who gave him the terrible news that his mum had died.

Andy said: "I've got three comforts from what happened and one of the comforts is that she did die in the house as she wouldn't have wanted to be alone in hospital."

The paramedic checked his dad over and said he should go to hospital as a precaution where he also tested positive for Covid-19.

Andy Snr spent 10 days on a ward in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital alone, not allowed visitors, and grieving the death of his wife of more than 50 years.

But his health began to improve and he was allowed home, finally testing negative for coronavirus, on April 9.

Andy moved into his dad's house to care for him and so they could grieve Mary's loss together.

He said: "It was obviously devastating for my dad for my mum to die in the house and for him to be the only one there.

"But after that, to be taken to hospital at the same time and no one being allowed to be with him, he had to grieve alone in the hospital.

"And I can't even imagine how that must have been for him, not allowed to grieve in the normal way around family.

"When he came out and I was living with him, I don't think he'd quite accepted it. And neither had I.

"You just expect my mum to walk in the door or be somewhere in the house. It was hard and surreal.

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"But then we had this sunny side that after the two deaths that we've had, at least my dad was back home now."

However, on the evening of Wednesday, March 15, Andy Snr began to cough again and was short of breath so Andy called the GP the following morning.

They were told that this was normal after a bout of the virus and it could take weeks or months for the 73-year-old's lungs to recover.

On the Friday, Andy was no better and his son was growing increasingly concerned so an ambulance was phoned and the grandad was taken back into the Queen Elizabeth to the same ward he had been on previously.

Andy was told the virus had taken hold again and was worse this time than previously.

"I don't think there's any words for how I felt at that point," he said.

"I could tell in the doctor's voice that there wasn't much chance of him surviving. It was hard for me but the thought for me was 'How do I tell Anna for a third time?'"

He sat with his dad on the Saturday afternoon, after a call from the hospital telling him to prepare for the worst, but his dad was sitting up in bed and chatting.

Andy said: "He went back into the same ward he was in the first time and the nurses were in shock that he was back.

"They all knew his story from the first time round that he had lost my mum and had no one with him so he had befriended the nurses and they were comforting him, they had been grieving with him.

"I have to say, all the doctors and nurses were out of this world."

Again, on the Sunday morning, Andy received a phone call telling him to get to the hospital as fast as could.

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His dad was sitting up in bed but was struggling for breath. Although he could talk to his son, it was obvious that his condition was deteriorating.

Finally, at 7pm that evening, he passed away.

Andy said: "On the Sunday you could see the progression of things getting worse and it being harder for him to breathe.

"It was as if, I don't know if drowning was the right word, but he was getting less than half a breath and as the day went on on Sunday you could see him deteriorating.

"He was fighting right to the end until I told him, 'You've done your best. Just be with my mum now.'

"That another one of my comforts, to know that they're together again."

Andy and Lynsey and their families then had to organise three funerals for their parents.

Dougie was laid to rest at Daldowie Crematorium where only 10 mourners were allowed while Mary and Andy Snr's final journey was to Linn Crematorium with 20 family members.

Andy said: "It wasn't what they deserved. There were no flowers, no order of service, it was basic.

"Dougie and my dad were big characters and I know what kind of turnout they would have had.

"Mum had three sisters and six brothers so under normal circumstances it would have been standing room.

"Even at the funeral you weren't allowed to comfort people.

"It's not normal human behaviour to see people in distress and you can't cuddle them or comfort them.

"After Lynsey's dad died, Wendy came to our house but with social distancing she had to stand in the garden and she was physically breaking down outside our front door and we couldn't comfort her.

"It's thing like that people don't understand with this illness."

Andy says there have been stages of anger for the family, knowing that if lockdown had come sooner their parents would have isolated due to their ages and underlying health conditions.

But, he says, there is no point in dwelling on what might have been.

Andy said: "Anna is dealing with it as best she can and I don't think it will fully hit her until she goes back to her new normality of being back at school and no longer being picked up by them.

"It's not something a nine-year-old should go through. It's bad enough one, but having three in four weeks is too much.

"She was my parents' only granddaughter, only grandchild so she was everything to them.

"We have a really small immediate family but a very close family. That was our world and now it's three less."

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Over the past week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked people to keep to social distancing and following government advice as figures show more cars on the road and more people are visiting parks and outdoor spaces.

At the weekend images were shown of parks and beaches full of people enjoying the sunshine.

But Andy hopes his story will help people think again and keep themselves safe.

He said: "People don't really realise unless it's affected somebody they know.

"But people need to realise it is real. These guidelines that are set out need to be followed.

"It may be them next and their families and we would not want anyone to go through what we have had to go through.

"Stay in the house, social distance. That is the only way of keeping the people you love safe."


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