The UK’s ‘longest-suffering Covid-19 inpatient’ has tragically died following a 14-and-a-half month battle in hospital.
Jason Kelk, 49, opted to withdraw all treatment after deciding he could not ‘live like this any more’ in St James’ Hospital in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
He was first admitted on March 31 last year – just one day after TV presenter Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper.
The primary school IT teacher, from Leeds, remained there ever since, until yesterday morning when he was transported to a nearby hospice, where he spent his final hours surrounded by his family.
He leaves behind heartbroken wife Sue, 63, as well as five step-children and eight grandchildren.
Sue said her husband’s battle had become too much and that he had come to the decision to stop treatment.
Paying tribute to her ‘soulmate’ of 20 years, Mrs Kelk added: ‘It was so peaceful. It was definitely important for him to do it on his terms.
‘But he is leaving an awful lot of people absolutely bereft.
Jason Kelk on a Face Time call to his wife Sue during his battle against Covid in hospital
‘People might not think he has been brave but my God, he has been brave. I really think he has.
‘And I just think that this is the bravest thing that you could ever do – to actually say “I don’t want to live like this anymore”.’
Mr Kelk – who had type II diabetes and asthma – was admitted to hospital on March 31. Just days later, on April 3, he was transferred to intensive care.
He remained there ever since, fighting for his life on numerous occasions after the virus ravaged his lungs and destroyed his kidneys.
Mr Kelk went on to develop such severe stomach issues that he was having to be fed intravenously when he died.
He suffered regular vomiting bouts as a result of gastroparesis and was unable to walk unaided for most of his time in hospital.
The ordeal was even more challenging for the couple as Covid restrictions meant they have only been able to see each other a few times while he’s been on the ward, instead having to communicate via other means such as Face Time calls.
There was hope in March this year when he marked 15 days in a row without the use of a ventilator.
He was taken off a 24/7 kidney filter and was enjoying outdoor family visits in the hospital grounds once a week.
And before that, Ms Kelk said she felt about ’10 foot tall’ when he managed to walk with assistance for the first time in February.
At the time he revealed his hopes of returning to his home in Leeds, saying he wanted to ‘sit on our sofa and eat take away fish and chips with Sue while we watch telly’.
However, he did add: ‘I’ve lost hope on a few occasions, mainly because even now the destination I’m working towards seems so far away.’
As Mr Kelk’s recovery continued, he was able to drink cups of tea and eat cake, as well return to one of his passions – computer coding.
But at the beginning of May he took a turn for the worse and ended up having to spend a few days on and off the ventilator before going on to develop two infections.
Mrs Kelk said her husband ‘never really recovered’ from them.
He was left needing the ventilator full-time again three weeks ago and Mrs Kelk said it was at that point he decided he had had enough.
She said: ‘He just wanted it all to come to an end. The antibiotics had worked but his spirit had gone.’
Mrs Kelk added: ‘I think really Jason from February 2020 disappeared. That’s the Jason we knew. But the Jason everybody loved was still very much there.
‘I think I have been preparing for myself since the beginning. Not that I haven’t believed he could do it.
‘In the last few weeks before his relapse I was just beginning to go ‘maybe I can hope now’ and then I got kicked in the teeth.’
Mr Kelk was surrounded by his wife as well as his mum, dad and sister when he died this morning.
He leaves behind five stepchildren and eight grandchildren – two born this past year who he has never met – and another on the way.
Mrs Kelk said she will miss his sense of humour and him ‘just being there’ the most, adding: ‘[My daughter] Katie wrote a beautiful poem about him and said we were soulmates and that’s exactly what we were.
‘We finished each other’s sentences half the time. We just knew instinctively what the other one wanted. We just complemented each other.’
‘It certainly has been a very fun life with him. We have done some fun things – but we had lots of things that we were going to do.’