'We had a torrid time' - family's enduring pain from Covid tragedy

Brian Gothard from Wymondham who died with Covid in April 2020

Brian Gothard from Wymondham who died with Covid in April 2020 - Credit: Susan Gothard

A musician whose father-in-law died with Covid has described how she will always be haunted by the sound of him gasping for breath.

Brian Gothard, 86, from Wymondham, died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in the early hours of April 23, 2020, without his family around him due to restrictions.

The retired depot manager, who moved to Norfolk in 1972, was described as a "fabulous person and a gentle man who loved life", by his daughter-in-law, Susan Gothard.

He went into the NNUH in December 2019 after falling in his porch and breaking his femur.

After a successful operation he went to Norwich Community Hospital, in Bowthorpe Road, for several weeks of rehabilitation.

He tested positive for Covid-19 on April 13 while staying at the community hospital and spent four days at the NNUH before he died.

Mrs Gothard, 64, a former headteacher and trained musician, said medics told them it was too late for him to go to intensive care and on to a ventilator but she praised their care for him.

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She said: "We had a pretty torrid time. We couldn't see him. The nurses were fabulous. They did everything they could.

"They would hold up the phone to his ear. He sounded like a cyberman and like he was drowning. He couldn't speak. For four days we took turns listening to him while we cried in the background. It was something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

"It was a hideous time and something I never believed I would go through in my life."

Heartbreakingly only eight people were able to attend his funeral at Breckland Crematorium.

Mrs Gothard, from Hingham, entered into a civil partnership with Mr Gothard's daughter Debbie in 2006 and the couple married in 2016.

Brian Gothard walking his daughter Debbie (right) and daughter-in-law Susan (left) up the aisle

Brian Gothard walking his daughter Debbie (right) and daughter-in-law Susan (left) up the aisle - Credit: Susan Gothard

She added: "He loved driving in his car, pottering in his shed, fixing things and would do anything for anyone. If anyone was in trouble he would stop and support them. He had a wicked sense of humour."

The 86-year-old was a keen golfer, bowls player and loved tending to his Koi carp fish.

He was married to his wife Patricia for 62 years.

Susan Gothard playing the bagpipes every Thursday in memory of her father-in-law, Brian Gothard, at

Susan Gothard when she played the bagpipes in memory of her father-in-law in 2021 - Credit: Denise Bradley

To remember her father-in-law, the accomplished bagpipe player performed a weekly tune in his memory and for other victims of Covid until Christmas last year.

She added that a permanent memorial in the city would help her and other relatives of Mr Gothard cope with the grief.

Mrs Gothard said: "I don't think since war times this country has experienced so many people dying over short periods of time. We weren't expecting it.

"No-one could control it or stop it. People were helpless.

"A memorial would give people something concrete to help remember their loved ones. That would help people in their healing process. We owe that to people."

She was hugely worried about the remaining Covid restrictions being dropped.

"People will think it isn't safe and it isn't," Mrs Gothard added. "I cannot see a time when I won't wear a mask outside. We have not been into the city since lockdown. I don't feel safe or comfortable. We cannot forget what Brian sounded like and how horrendous it was."

Annie Henriques, from the Golden Triangle area of Norwich, whose husband, Stuart Goodman, 72, died with Covid on April 2, 2020, also backed a memorial.

Stuart Goodman who died with Covid aged 72.

Stuart Goodman who died with Covid aged 72. - Credit: Jo Goodman

The leading member of the Norwich Liberal Jewish Community said: "It would be nice to have a memorial in Norwich."

Husband and wife Stuart Goodman and Annie Henriques pictured together in August 2019

Husband and wife Stuart Goodman and Annie Henriques pictured together in August 2019 - Credit: Annie Henriques

She added that it would be good to involve different religious denominations from the city involved in a memorial.

Mr Goodman, who worked as a newspaper photographer and picture editor in Fleet Street, London, for 30 years moved to Norwich in 1996 where he became a lecturer at City College Norwich.

His wife said: "You have got to go on. I have got a close family and a lot of support."

Nurse's experience from the front line

An accident and emergency nurse who helped the sickest Covid patients has described the emotional toll on hospital workers.

Visit Norwich brand launch 2019. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

NHS nurse and poet Piers Harrison-Reid - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

Piers Harrison-Reid, 28, from Dereham Road in Norwich, studied nursing at the University of East Anglia and began his job on the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's emergency department in January 2016.

He said: "People are tired. Many have already left, many more are reconsidering their futures. We have seen our colleagues die, have missed family and friends, and have lived in fear. 

"The workers have been incredible, going far and above the amount they are being paid to do.

"I find strength in my lowest days through my colleagues and patients, despite the government."

Reflecting on the pandemic, Mr Harrison-Reid, who also performs his own poetry, said: "The past two years have contained some of the worst shifts I've ever had in my life."