Covid two years on: Reminders always there says daughter of first Sheffield victim, Leonard Gibson

For Lisa Broughton, St Patrick's Day brings mixed feelings.

Thursday, 17th March 2022, 12:54 pm

Her Irish-born dad, Leonard Gibson loved the celebrations of March 17, like so many others from his heritage.

But it is now also the date she will forever associate with the loss of her dad, when he became the first person in Sheffield to die of what was then a worrying new illness, Covid 19, two years ago.

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Leonard Gibson. It is two years since he become Sheffield's first Covid 19 victim

A lot has happened since that terrible day in 2020, when she and sister Michelle Lenton lost their father, unable to see him because of isolation rules.

Leonard, who lived in sheltered accommodation at Oughtibridge, died the week after he was diagnosed with the virus. Since then, over 1,600 coronavirus-related deaths have been registered in the city.

He had been prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection after feeling unwell for a few days before he was eventually admitted to hospital and Covid-19 was identified.

His family praised the Northern General Hospital staff at the time, who, they said, dealt with them sensitively and efficiently, showing them great kindness. Although they could not be there in person, they rang lots of times to see how he was. Every member of staff took time to talk to them in detail, and made sure their dad knew each time they had phoned and that they had said they loved him. At the time they felt that was a small but important thing.

Leonard Gibson. It is two years since he because Sheffield's first Covid 19 victim

Two years on, Lisa still has clear memories of the time, and is angry about the revelations that parties were going on in Downing Street through lockdown.

She said: “It doesn’t feel like two years – it feels longer, and I think that’s because of the pandemic, which seemed to have taken over everything until recently. There is always something to remind you.

"We couldn’t have a traditional funeral. We were limited to 10, socially distanced, and we couldn’t have cards or flowers. Dad would have loved a big gathering, he was such a happy, jolly, friendly person, and I think he’d have liked a big wake, and to have been able to have done something like that would have been great.

Leonard Gibson with his daughters Lisa Broughton (L) and Michelle Linton (R)

“But I think it has lost a bit of its momentum now. Time has passed, and you tend to lose the idea of a gathering. I don’t think we will have a big memorial now.

St Patrick’s Day mixed memories

“He died on St Patrick’s Day, and as an Irishman he loved St Patrick’s Day. So it is a date that has mixed memories. There are happy memories of him on St Patrick’s Day in the past, but now the sad memory too.”

Two years ago, she did not expect the pandemic to pan out the way it did. When things seems to improve after the first lockdown, she never expected two years later we would still be dealing with it

Now she feels as thought the country is on the fourth or fifth strain, and is of the opinion that the country has now got to the point where we just have to live with it.

For a long time, she was the only person a lot of people knew who had lost someone to Covid. She still does not know many people who have been bereaved due to the disease.

But she was angered when she heard of lockdown parties in Westminster.

Anger over Downing Street parties from first victim’s family

“When I hear about lockdown parties at Downing Street, it infuriates me,” she said.

“We were being told that we couldn’t visit people in hospital. Dad was the first in Sheffield, and no one knew how to deal with it. We were not tested at the time, but both of us had symptoms and were told to self isolate. That was in March. I work for the NHS and I joined an NHS trial, and they found I had antibodies in June, which confirmed I had had it, but between March and June, I didn’t know.

"When dad was in hospital, all we had was phone contact with the nurses. We wanted dad to have his dressing gown in his coffin, and have certain things in there with him. We were not even allowed that. We couldn’t touch or kiss his coffin. So it does make me cross that they were partying while people were suffering and not able to see relatives. And there were people who had babies who could not have loved ones around them, yet there was a Downing Street party with 100 people invited.

“I try not to think about it too much because it could eat away at you, and it won’t bring dad back.

“I think I was in a bubble for six months, and didn’t notice what other people were doing. I didn’t care, in a way.

“I couldn’t allow myself to get angry.

“But we were very strict on restrictions, because it was scary, and we didn’t know what Covid would do to relatives. I don’t know now if I would do things differently.

“At one point I thought what we had been through had made people better, because of the happiness at coming out of lockdown. But I worry about the long term effects, things like how it affects children who missed out on nursery.”

There is still plenty to remind the family of Leonard.

Lisa said: “We were not allowed flowers at the funeral, but we got plants – yellow roses. I kept the pot plant from the funeral and kept it in the garden, I have conversations with it now.

“Some of his ashes we have scattered in Woodhouse woods, where we have happy memories with dad. Some were scattered at the lakes at Waverley, at the Orgreave memorial. Dad was a surface worker there. He spoke fondly of his time there and kept an interest in it.”