‘Loving’ grandmother Jane, 75, named as Suffolk’s first coronavirus victim
PUBLISHED: 20:56 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:15 26 March 2020
Tributes have been paid to a “lovely vibrant” grandmother, who has become the first person to die after contracting coronavirus in Suffolk.
Jane Jay died on Tuesday March 24 at the age of 75 after being rushed to West Suffolk Hospital just one week ago.
The grandmother-of-five, from Ixworth, has left behind three children, and her son Alex has spoken about the traumatic experience of losing her to the virus which caused double pneumonia.
“We had to choose which one of us was going to go in and see her,” he recalled. “My sisters and I had to pick which of us would be the only one allowed to sit with her which was very difficult.
“My sister is a social worker so we decided to protect her from infection so chose me instead, but it was all very surreal.”
The 52-year-old IT consultant saw his mother three times in hospital before she lost her life to COVID-19 and said the staff who cared for her on the ward were “just fantastic”.
His message is now a plea for the public to heed government advice to ensure their own loved ones do not suffer.
“When she was in the isolation ward it was very quiet, very quiet and very calm – almost bizarre,” he remembered.
“The last time I saw her I had been told by the doctor there was a 100% chance she wasn’t going to make it – then it took me an hour to compose myself before I was ready to go in and see her.”
Mr Jay was given protective clothing including a mask, rubber gloves and a visor before he could see his gravely ill mother, who was sealed off from the rest of the isolation ward.
He spent just 20 minutes with her and she passed away at 1.45pm that day.
“She was so very strong,” he said. “She was so strong and matter of fact even at the end, she even cracked a joke with me.
“From the Wednesday last week when she was rushed in, with what we thought was a chest infection, it all happened so quickly.”
Concerned at the crowds of people who spent Mother’s Day at beaches and parks, Mr Jay hopes that his mother’s death will get the message through that this virus is serious and doesn’t want this “just to be another number”.
“You watch the news and you see the figures going up all over the world,” he said. “We need to keep those who are elderly and vulnerable out of harm by shutting ourselves and them away to give this government a chance to fight it.”
His mother Jane worked as a social worker in Bury St Edmunds and Saxmundham for a decade before moving to France to open a bed and breakfast near Calais.
In the late 70s she spent some time training women working in telesales at the East Anglian Daily Times.
Her children recalled a trick she used when speaking to someone she didn’t like on the phones where she took a mouthful of ‘space dust’ popping candy and pretended she had a bad line.
Described as “lovely, eccentric but so full of life”, she was a loving grandmother and her last request was to hear the voices of her daughters over the phone before she died.
Her ex-husband, Ken Jay a proclaimed ‘workaholic accountant’, had remained a close friend to her for many years after their divorce and passed away in 2015 after fighting cancer several times.
Her son believes she had found happiness recently with a new group in friends in Ixworth as she had never remarried after her divorce.
Mr Jay said he and his family are in shock for the time being, after a week of what he described like as being in a “horror movie”.
“Boris Johnson said that everyone will be touched by this and lose family members,” he said.
“My mother said on her deathbed, ‘I hope to god I’m the only one this family loses’.
“I am beyond shocked and petrified right now, I’ve had many friends get in touch and this is what has made it real for them – hearing this news.”
Jane’s granddaughter, Molly Jay, put a tribute on her social media this morning recalling Christmas Day when she told her she was gay.
The 75-year-old crocheted a rainbow blanket to show support for her beloved grandchild.
The 22-year-old said: “I will forever be grateful for the love my grandma had for all of us, for the kindness she showed.”
In a tweet she warned people to “please stay inside” in order to curb the spread of the potentially fatal virus.