Five doctor siblings whose dad died of Covid-19 make powerful plea to follow rules

Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry with members of his family

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It was one of the most heartbreaking stories of the pandemic so far.

A beloved father killed by coronavirus as all six of his children work for our embattled NHS.

Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry, 81, passed away in Queen’s Hospital, Romford, on December 28.

And while it is not known how the retired maths and computer science teacher, who had abided by government guidelines and stayed at home since March, contracted the disease, his incredible legacy continues.

Here five of his children – all doctors – pay tribute to their dad and tell of the difficulties of working in the pandemic.

Above all, they are urging people to stay vigilant.

Do have a tribute for the Ahsan family? Leave your message in the comments below…

The dad-of-five lost his life to coronavirus
(Image: Saleya Ahsan / SWNS)

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Dr Saleyha Ahsan is an emergency medicine doctor working in ITU in Bangor, North Wales

She is also a broadcast journalist, most recently presenting Channel 4 documentaries Coronavirus: Can Our NHS Cope? and What’s It Like To Catch Coronavirus?

'My dad suffered from asthma and in the last three or four years he’d started on an amazing treatment which gave him his life back. He was going out socialising and his lungs felt amazing.

'He loved Scotland, bagpipes and steam trains. His dad was a train driver in India and before he became unwell with his asthma we used to go up to the ‘Harry Potter’ train, the Jacobite steam train that runs from Fort William to Mallaig. He also loved travelling overseas.

Dr Saleyha Ahsan, 50, an emergency medicine doctor and brodcast journalist
(Image: Saleya Ahsan / SWNS)

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'I thought we’d be able to do it all over again but instead, he was locked up indoors shielding and it was awful.

'My dad was super careful and really strict but on the 19th or 20th of December he began to display Covid symptoms.

'I’m one of his registered carers so I was given permission to stay with him when he was taken to hospital. I arrived on the 23rd and stayed with him until the 28th when he died.

'I knew things were bad when he struggled to breathe without his CPAP mask. It was a long drawn out death, I feel so bad about how long it took and the agony of watching it.

'There was one day where he said: ‘Just let me die’, which was heartbreaking.

'I handled all my dad’s healthcare and last night I got a phone call from the GP practice inviting him for the vaccine. It was like a bullet to the chest: I had to say: ‘I’m sorry, he died of Covid last week’.

'My real job is emergency medicine and it was always planned that I’d work in intensive care this year. Because of Covid, it’s been an incredible year and it’s made me thinking about changing my speciality.

'We’ve learned a lot about Covid since the first wave of the pandemic and now is the crunch time.

From Left L-R Dr Shoaib, Dr Safiyah , Dr Saima, Dr Syira, Dr Saleyha and Shazlee Ahsan
(Image: Ahsan family / SWNS)

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'My dad encouraged me and supported me in my ambition to join the army at a time when there were really no other examples I could see of people like me – a British Muslim woman.

'I went for selection to go to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and passed. My dad was really proud and spoke often to his friends about it.

'They thought I had done something good for the community by doing this. But truth is, it was my father’s influence and encouragement that made me do it. I did end up becoming the first British Muslim woman to go to Sandhurst and become commissioned into the Army.

'The tributes about my father have been incredible – reading about his life as a teacher from former students.

One said: ‘Saddened to head the passing of Mr Chaudry, a pioneer way ahead of his time. Taught me computer science at Mayfield High School when the school had no computers.

'With his dedication and support, I was able to rise to the top in the field of computer science.’ So he wasn’t just an incredible influence on our lives but that of so many others.

'The one comfort we have is our faith. We’re Muslim and we all believe that everyone’s got their time.'

Dr Syira Ahsan, a GP in north east London
(Image: Ahsan family / SWNS)

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Dr Syira Ahsan is a GP in North East London, with her work including the out of hours area of Queen’s Hospital

'In this third lockdown, Covid has exploded. When my dad was upstairs on the ward and I was working downstairs, on one shift every single patient bar one had Covid symptoms.

'These are young people in their 40s, struggling with their breathing and it was really surreal.

'We are at maximum capacity, there are not enough doctors and we are all really exhausted.

'I’ve been a doctor for over 21 years but I’ve actually got to the point where I think: ‘What is the point?’ Hopefully it’s a fleeting thought.

'You try to do everything for everyone else and then you lose your own parent. It’s not stopping, it’s like a tidal wave.

'Covid is a really cruel disease, there’s a slight lag between what you’re seeing radiologically and the patient themselves.

'When my dad was talking without any oxygen aid they wheeled out his chest X-ray and we sat in silence because as doctors we knew that X-ray was horrific.

'His funeral was like an airport runway – he was the first of the day and there were so many others waiting.

'The most precious people I think in society are our elderly and we would be so selfish to become complacent and lose them. That’s why we don’t have a choice but to be vigilant.

'My dad was a strong, independent 81-year-old. He instilled core values in all of us – to always be honest and truthful and do the right thing. You work hard and you give back. He was big in stature and we’d call him the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant.

'He was so loved.'

Dr Saima Ahsan, 38, a paediatric consultant in west London
(Image: Saleya Ahsan / SWNS)

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Dr Saima Ahsan is a paediatric consultant at St Mary’s Hospital, London

'Winter is usually much worse than the summertime in paediatrics because you have loads of viruses like respiratory illnesses.

'Now, you’ve got the usual paediatric patients with adult Covid patients to care for on top of that and I think the next couple of weeks could be the hardest yet.

'You don’t have enough cubicles and Covid patients need cubicles or at least to be isolated together.

'You have a haematology unit where you do bone marrow transplants – you cannot have mixing of Covid patients with immuno-suppressed ones.

'I’m so proud of my colleagues but the NHS is chronically underfunded and we’re seeing the consequences of that now.

'I’ve been talking with my colleagues, who have been fantastic, about going back to work. They’re extending the number of adult Covid patients we’re going to be looking after and I think it might be quite difficult for me because of the way my dad passed away.

'As a consultant you’re the leader, you have to support the rest of the team and I don’t want to break down in the middle of the ward.

Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry had six children
(Image: Daily Mirror)

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'We lost our mum in October 2019 so we were just coming to terms with that when this happened.

'The thing about my parents was that they were very, very kind.

'My dad had 11 eleven grandchildren and one is already studying medicine. He was always checking up on me – he’d offer to cook for me because he knew if you did back to back ‘on calls’ you’d neglect yourself and go without eating a proper meal for a few days.

'I didn’t see him as much as I would have liked this year and I really missed him, the phone wasn’t the same as sitting there in person with a cup of tea.'

Dr Safiyah Ahsan is a London GP who works in urgent care

'When the pandemic began I was living with my dad but with him needing to shield, I moved out and practically lived in my car at first.

'I worked at urgent care centres at Barking and Harold Wood Hospitals during the day and in the evenings I’d do shifts at the 111 centre where patients call up.

'Patients with Covid symptoms tended to go straight to A&E. Instead, we would have a lot of patients coming in upset because they found it difficult to speak to their GPs. They felt really neglected and scared.

'Triaging on the phone was shocking because every single patient that called up was breathless. They were patients of all ages, as young as their late 20s.

'We were all learning on our feet about covid and then you’d drive home late from your shift and all you’d see were ambulances blue lighting. For the patients we called the ambulances for, there was a fear they wouldn’t come out.

'I wanted to stay at home and spend time with my dad during the second wave because we were still coming to terms with our mother not being around so I stuck to telephone triaging and teaching my medical students online.

'We’d do really nice things like cook together. I’d be working and I’d hear him having an in depth conversation about politics or he’d be watching a gangster film or programme about steam trains.

'He was in such good health and was planning to move to Canada, we were gearing ourselves up for that next year.

'I went on social media briefly yesterday and was quite surprised by the number of controversial posts about how covid isn’t real or it’s all a big conspiracy.

'My dad was absolutely fine and covid somehow crept in. It came out of nowhere and killed him.'

Dr Shoaib Ahsan and his father Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry
(Image: Ahsan family / SWNS)

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Dr Shoaib Ahsan is a doctor in acute medicine working in London

'I’ve been working on and off in the pandemic due to my medical background, which makes me high risk to Covid.

'I was working in London when it began and I caught Covid straight away. When I felt sluggish I put it down to being in lockdown and it was only when I had a shower and couldn’t stand up that I realised something was wrong.

'The next two or three weeks was a blur. It’s a weird, drawn out disease, not like the flu that you get for four or five days.

'After I had recovered I went back to work in Devon where there was a lower instance of Covid. Even there, I’d be finishing at 9pm instead of 5pm because the number of people to treat had gone up and so the working hours had gone up.

'Covid is a new disease and it’s about trying to manage patients with illnesses we know about with one we have no idea about. We are still learning about its after effects.

Four of his children (from left) Dr Saima, Dr Saleyha Dr Safiyah and Dr Syira Ahsan
(Image: Ahsan family / SWNS)

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'I lived at home with my dad and I’d have a chat with him every morning. He was a friend who was always there.

'When my mum died last year, he took the mantle of being both mum and dad. Even thought he was elderly he’d always do things for you.

'He’d always ask: ‘Do you need anything?’ which was really nice.

'When he fell ill we thought it was a urine infection at first, then when the medication wasn’t working a chest infection.

'Then there came a point when we thought we should call an ambulance – there was a wait so we ended up taking him into hospital by car.'

To donate

There are a few charities that worked in areas Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudry was particularly keen on, his kids say

"If anyone is inspired or moved by our dad’s story they could donate in his name."

Visit Asthma UK here.

Or Give a Kidney here.

Or Centrepoint here.

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