The children of an 81-year-old man who died of Covid despite shielding have urged the public to follow lockdown rules.
Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry’s six children all work on the NHS front line, with one working at Queen’s Hospital in Romford where he died on December 28.
All six of the siblings, an ITU doctor, two GPs, a junior doctor, a paediatric consultant and a pharmacist, have all been at the sharp end of the NHS’s fight against Covid-19 and sacrificed time with their father last year so they could care for others battling the virus.
His daughter Saleya Ahsan told The Mirror it felt ‘like a bullet to the chest’ when she had to explain to doctors he would no longer be in need of the vaccine because he had died.
The proud father came to UK in the late 50s as an impoverished 19-year-old after fleeing partition violence in India and later working multiple jobs to support his children through education.
Five of his children have now spoken about their father’s life and their own experiences in the fight against coronavirus in a bid to encourage people to abide by restrictions.
All six of Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry’s children work on the coronavirus front line and sadly lost their father to the virus in December. Pictured: Four of the children of Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry, from Left Dr Saima Ahsan, Dr Saleyha Ahsan, Dr Safiyah Ahsan and Dr Syira Ahsan
Despite shielding since March, the much-loved father died in hospital on December 28. Pictured: Dr Shoaib Ahsan and his father Mr Chaudry
Mr Chaudry came to UK in the late 50s as an impoverished 19-year-old after fleeing partition violence in India and working multiple jobs to support his children through education
Dr Saleyha Ahsan, a 50-year-old ITU nurse working in Bangor, North Wales, was by her father’s bedside when he died and described his death as ‘long and drawn out’.
She had dealt with Covid patients throughout the pandemic, but said nothing could have prepared her for watching her own dad deteriorate so rapidly.
At one stage during his five days in hospital, after being admitted on December 23, Saleyha said she was heartbroken when her father said: ‘Just let me die.’
Retired maths and computer science teacher Mr Chaudry, who suffered from asthma, was initially admitted to the accident and emergency department where his son had worked and later died at the hospital where his GP daughter was treating Covid patients as they arrived.
He was tragically just weeks away from having the vaccine when he died and Saleyha, one of his registered carers, said she received a call from the doctors surgery last night inviting him in for the jab.
She said it was ‘like a bullet to the chest’ as she was forced to explain he had died.
Despite being careful since March, her father started to display coronavirus symptoms around December 19 or 20.
‘We all stayed away from our father for extended periods to keep him safe as we were seeing and caring for Covid patients,’ she said.
Dr Saleyha Ahsan, a 50-year-old ITU nurse working in Bangor, North Wales, was by her father’s bedside when he died and described his death as ‘long and drawn out’. PIctured: Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry with members of his family
Dr Saleyha Ahsan holding her father’s hand while he was in hospital. She by his side when he died
‘He shielded all year but somehow it still got through.’
She said incredible and moving tributes from her father’s former pupils have been pouring in, with one explaining how he taught them computer science without a single computer in the school.
‘We never really stopped to consider his legacy until now and it is only now speaking to people about my dad and getting that feedback you realise how special it is,’ Saleyha said.
‘We probably almost took him for granted for what he helped us to achieve. I hope not, but it was just our normal, having our parents support us to do what we could.
‘It is only now stepping back that you realise – what a legacy. I could not have achieved half as much as my dad.
‘What he did as a migrant who came with nothing to building this all up was incredible. He was very humble about it and never made a big deal out of anything.’
Six of the children of Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry, from left to right Dr Shoaib Ahsan, Dr Safiyah Ahsan, Dr Syira Ahsan, Dr Saleyha Ahsan and Shazlee Ahsan
Saleyha, 50, began her career as a journalist before completing Army officer training at Sandhurst.
She decided she wanted to get into medicine while serving in Bosnia in 1997, as she felt powerless being unable to help treat trauma victims there.
Another of Mr Chaudry’s daughters, GP Dr Syira Ahsan, 48, works in the out of hours at Queen’s Hospital where he died.
Her father was in the ward upstairs as she worked on the front line helping patients with coronavirus symptoms.
Dr Saima Ahsan a daughter of Mr Chaudry, a paediatric consultant at St Mary’s Hospital
The doctor, who has been practicing for more than 21 years, explained how she and her colleagues have been struggling to manage the volume of people in the hospital and says it is surreal to see people in their 40s struggling to breath.
She said she has reached the point where she says to herself ‘What is the point?’, describing the pandemic as ‘a tidal wave’ that isn’t stopping.
Syira compared her father’s funeral to an airport runway, with a constant stream of people waiting.
Following his death, she is urging people to be vigilant and abide by the lockdown rules.
Her sister Saima Ahsan, a 38-year-old paediatric consultant at St Mary’s Hospital, London, shared a similar warning and believes the coming weeks may be some of the most difficult yet.
She claimed the NHS is underfunded, with the consequences now being seen, and fears she may struggle to deal with Covid patients after her father’s death.
The children lost their mother in late 2019 and Saima explained they were just starting to deal with that loss when their father died.
Mr Chaudry, who had 11 grandchildren, would often offer to make Saima food while she was on call, fearing she was neglecting her own needs.
She admits. while they would talk on the phone, she did not see Mr Chaudry as much as she wanted to in 2020.
Mr Chaudry with members of his family. He was widowed when his wife Fauzia Ahsan died in 2019
Dr Safiyah Ahsan, a London GP, was living in her father’s home when the pandemic began but decided to move out to protect him.
She lived out of his car to begin with, working in urgent care centres at Barking and Harold Wood hospitals before manning the 111 phones in the evening.
As a GP she found people felt ‘neglected and scared’ and admitted she feared patients who were taken to hospital via ambulance may never leave.
Dr Safiyah Ashan lived out of her car at the beginning of the pandemic to protect her father
During the second wave she moved back in with her father to help him deal with the loss of his wife where she continued to deal with 111 calls and taught her medical students virtually.
She said: ‘My dad was absolutely fine and Covid somehow crept in. It came out of nowhere and killed him.’
Mr Chaudry’s son Dr Shoaib Ahsan, 32, who works in acute medicine, contracted Covid during the first wave after being in close contact with patients and described the weeks he recovered from the virus as ‘a blur’.
He said his father was ‘a friend who was always there’ and that he always looked out for his children’s needs, especially after their mother died.
Mr Chaudry was just eight years old during the bloody India and Pakistan partition in 1947. He left at the age of 19 and never went back. He was widowed when his wife Fauzia Ahsan died in 2019.
Saleyha added: ‘He left his old life all behind after what he witnessed as a child.
‘There was a bit of a gap between his first three children and the younger three. They were unplanned, but were a real joy and wonderful for my dad in his later years. They are all in their early 30s now, but he got to do it all again with them.
Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry with one of his children on the day of their graduation
‘We were not a well off family and he would often work as a security guard at the weekend to make ends meet.
‘When we started to need more support in academic studies to pass exams he would do extra work to pay for our tuition.’
Saleyha said he had become a bit unwell over the last few years and suffered with asthma and heart failure but had got it all under control.
‘He had a busy social life pre-Covid and was very active and prominent in the community,’ she added.
‘He had been shielding all year – we don’t know how he contracted Covid – maybe after a sibling’s shopping trip? Maybe the carer who went out on his day off? We just don’t know.
‘We had been as careful as possible but somehow it got through.
‘Covid was really challenging for him as he was confined to the house but he was really strict with himself and kept with it.
‘We tried to work out ways to be safe for him and I was able to become one of his recognised carers.
Dr Safiyah Ashan and Dr Shoaib Ahsan in scrubs. They, as well as their siblings, work on the coronavirus front line
‘We were just looking forward greatly to all go out again with the arrival of the vaccine. I would make sure I was ten days clear before visiting him but for four weeks in November and December I had been full on shifts.
‘Before I could go to the house he was taken unwell.’
Mr Chaudry was initially taken into the accident and emergency department where one of his sons used to work.
Saleyha added: ‘When he was told it was Covid he just smiled and said ‘That is the thing making everything shut down.’ He coped by diffusing the situation.
‘He just took it all as it came and did not complain once.
‘It was hard watching him, but as his full time carer at home I was able to stay with him for five days. I just camped in his room and it was really harrowing and was scary watching your father not able to breathe. Despite 14 years of being a doctor I thought I was going to pass out.
‘I have looked after so many Covid patients but on ITU you are not with them 24/7.
‘They have been intubated and asleep and we hope oblivious to what was going on but my dad was awake the whole time.’
Mr Chaudry had been shielding since the first outbreak but still managed to contract the virus, seen with his family
Saleyha urged everyone to take the new lockdown seriously after witnessing the trauma of Covid from both a personal and professional perspective.
She added: ‘All I can say is thank goodness we have had the lockdown as it was clear that a lot of people did not understand the tiers and people were pushing the boundaries.
‘We are in dire straits and people have just got to come together and show some compassion. We need to be selfless as a community to tackle this and just got to get our head down and deal with it. We will come out the other side but we can’t take shortcuts.
‘The last few weeks have been like watching a car crash happen and no-one making any attempts to stop this. During each wave we have had the time and predictions so why is it we have only acted in a reactionary way and not in a preventative one?
‘Sadly, the government is taking people down with them.