Shielding Wiltshire gran loses four relatives to Covid-19

When Covid-19 struck around this time last year, Mary Potter knew it was going to have a lasting impact.

But what the grandmother of five didn’t know back then is just how devastating the disease would be for her and her family.

The 68-year-old from Steeple Langford lost four close relatives to the virus: her husband John, her sister-in-law June and her two brothers, David and Johnny.

All of them died in the last 11 months and had underlying health conditions.

None of them had been in contact with one another.

“I can’t put it into words, the way things have happened is just awful,” she said.

“The virus can hit anyone, at any time, at any age.

“I want people to realise that they need to heed to whatever they’re asked to do.”

‘Tragedy after tragedy’

Mary’s sister-in-law June Potter, 81, was the first relative to die having tested positive for the virus in March last year.

She had been a resident at Buckland Court in Amesbury.

Salisbury Journal: June Potter with her niece Sarah AyersJune Potter with her niece Sarah Ayers

“They took her into hospital because she had a fall and hit her head.

“If she had Covid before or if she caught it in hospital I don’t know but she passed away at Salisbury District Hospital,” Mary recalled.

‘I don’t even know if he had anyone with him’

Not too long after June’s death, Mary’s husband John Potter, 75, fell ill too.

Initially, she thought he had contracted pneumonia but during their self-isolation, John’s breathing started to get worse.

“I phoned 111 and they sent an ambulance, they believed he had Covid and took him to hospital, that’s the last I saw of him,” she said.

“The day that he passed away they phoned me to tell me it was only going to be a matter of time and that I could go and see him but it affected me so badly that it upset my stomach and I just could not go.

“He passed away in hospital and I don’t even know if he had anyone with him or not.”

A ‘loving father’ and ‘good husband’

Before moving to Steeple Langford, John, who was born and raised in Chitterne, had lived in Upavon with Mary and their two children for most of his life.

He was a farm worker and during the winter, a barman at The Antelope Inn.

He and Mary would have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in June.

“He was a very loving father and a good husband, I can’t fault him in any way.

“A lot of people knew him in Upavon.”

Shielding to stay safe

After his passing in April last year, Mary spent the first lockdown on her own.

But since the second lockdown in November, she has been staying with her sister Maureen.

“We had a quiet Christmas, just the two of us,” she said.

“We’re basically shielding, we’re only going to the doctor’s surgery or to pick up supplies when we run out.”

‘They died within 8 days of each other’

Salisbury Journal: David Sharp (left) with his niece Sarah and Johnny Sharp David Sharp (left) with his niece Sarah and Johnny Sharp

In January this year, Covid struck again.

This time it claimed the lives of both her brothers, 62-year-old David and 72-year-old Johnny Sharp.

“They died within eight days of each other,” said Mary.

“It’s just awful, the way things have happened.

“When we buried my husband only 10 people were allowed.

“It was so unreal, I just stood there and cried all the time, I could not control my tears, it didn’t feel real to me.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare these last 10 months, it’s been one tragedy after the other.

“We’re hoping this is the end of it but who knows.

“There are people out there who do the right thing and then you’ve got those who break the rules and go to parties. 

“We would all like to go back to our lives but we can’t.

“I just think a lot of people are being very selfish with their attitudes.”

‘A little sniper in the bushes’

Mary’s daughter Sarah Ayers, who lives in Lincolnshire, has also spoken about the loss of her dad, auntie and uncles to warn others of the devastating consequences of Covid.

In an interview with BBC Look North, the healthcare worker said the virus is like “a little sniper waiting behind the bushes, waiting for my family to come outside and then it’s going to get them”.

It’s a metaphor Mary agrees with.

“We’re probably not the only family that have suffered more than one loss of a family member but it’s a horrible thing,” she said.

“I think it’s just going to take ages to go back to normality – if we ever go back to anything close to normality again.

“I just want people to realise that they need to heed to whataver they’re asked to do.

“If we can all do that, perhaps we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Having experienced four losses in such a short amount of time, it’s hard for Mary to grieve.

“I had a little cry for everybody but I think when it really does hit home, it’s going to really hit home but at the moment I’m trying not to let my defences too low.”

She hopes her story will raise awareness of the virus and encourage others to do the right thing.

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