Leeds man Jason Kelk - the UK's longest Covid-19 in-patient - has died
Leeds man Jason Kelk - who was thought to be the UK’s longest Covid-19 inpatient having spent the past 14-and-a-half months in hospital - has died.
The 49-year-old’s devastated family revealed to the Yorkshire Evening Post that his battle had simply got too much for him and he had come to the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from all treatment.
Earlier this morning he was transferred from St James’ Hospital - where had been since March 31 last year - to St Gemma’s Hospice where he spent his final hours surrounded by his family.
Paying tribute to her "soulmate", his wife Sue, 63, who has been with Jason for over 20 years, told the Yorkshire Evening Post his death 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," adding: "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’.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post has covered Jason’s long-term battle in hospital since December last year by which time his stay had already reached nine months.
His admittance to hospital came just one day after that of Derek Draper, the husband of TV presenter Kate Garraway, who was discharged to his home in April this year where he now receives round-the-clock care.
Jason - who had type II diabetes and asthma - was transferred into intensive care on April 3 last year and he had remained on that ward ever since.
During that time, he had had to fight for his life on numerous occasions after the virus ravaged his lungs, destroyed his kidneys and he went on to develop such severe stomach issues that he was still having to be fed intravenously when he died.
Despite this, earlier this year his recovery had appeared to turn a corner and in February he even managed to walk a few steps again. In March we reported how he had marked 15 days in a row without the use of a ventilator, had been taken off his 24/7 kidney filter to instead have less-invasive dialysis three times a week and was enjoying outdoor family visits, in the hospital grounds, once a week.
Jason himself, in an exclusive interview with the YEP at the time, revealed his hopes of returning to his home in Seacroft to “sit on our sofa and eat take away fish and chips with Sue while we watch telly. Something normal like that,” he had said.
But he went on to admit: “I’ve lost hope on a few occasions, mainly because even now the destination I’m working towards seems so far away.”
In the weeks following that interview, his recovery had continued and he went on to be able to drink cups of tea, eat cake and custard and, a massive gaming fan, had even returned to his love of computer coding.
But sadly, at the beginning of May, Sue said Jason 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 which she said he “never really recovered” from.
He was left needing the ventilator full-time again three weeks ago and Sue said it was at that point he decided he had had enough.
“He just wanted it all to come to an end,” she said.
“The antibiotics had worked but his spirit had gone."
His family however still clung on to the hope that he would bounce back - as he had done numerous times before - but despite a succession of visitors at his bedside, he maintained his mind was made up.
Sue said: “I think really Jason from February 2020 disappeared. That’s the Jason we knew. But the Jason everybody loved was still very much there.”
She added: “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.”
Highlighting the arduous journey he had been on over the past nearly 15 months, Sue said: “So has everybody around him. Some of the nurses have gone through it with him, some of the doctors have gone through it with him and certainly his family have gone through it with him
“It should never have ended up like this.”
Despite Jason’s initial hope to spend his final moments at home in Seacroft, St Gemma’s was the only realistic option - and somewhere he could “go with dignity”, Sue said.
He was surrounded by Sue as well as his mum, dad and sister when he died.
He also leaves five step children and eight grandchildren - two born this past year who he has never met - and another on the way.
Sue said she will most miss his sense of humour and him “just being there”, 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.”
For Jason’s funeral, Sue is planning a memorial, where friends and family can share stories about his life.
“We will all remember the good bits and all the funny bits and get people to talk about him - his friends and family, his stepkids - everybody who wants to - and celebrate his life that way.”
She also hopes to return Disneyland Paris - a place he “loved” and where they had planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary together once he returned home - on November 5, which would have been his 50th birthday.
“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,” she said.
*For confidential support and advice, phone Samaritans Leeds on 116 123 (free) or 0113 245 6789 (local call charges apply)
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.