Devastated family of Covid-19 just too late to say goodbye before she died

By Tara O’Connor, BBC Local Democracy Reporter

The heartbroken family of a grandmother who died from coronavirus have told how the last message she sent was that she would keep fighting.

Maria Elton passed away at Croydon University Hospital on March 29 aged 56. Her family were allowed to go and see her at the hospital – but it was just too late to say goodbye.

Her family say she was an amazing person and was always on hand to help out looking after her loved ones. They want her to be remembered and ‘not become a statistic’.

Maria Elton and family

Maria had been ill for a couple of weeks and was admitted to the hospital a few days before her death where she was diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia.

She was also diagnosed with Covid-19 – it is not known whether she had this before or picked this up in hospital. Because of the new rules on visiting hospitals, none of her large family was able to visit Maria in her final days.

Her niece Zoe Graham, 43, from New Addington said: “It was heartbreaking. When you hear someone’s been rushed to hospital you want to go and see them, but knowing that you can’t, you feel helpless.

“We’ve always been there for each other, we’re a very close family.

Maria Elton with her grandchildren

“She was strong as an ox we never thought she would be snatched like that, it is unbelievable.

“She couldn’t speak properly over video call, she had a machine supporting her breathing, so we spoke by messaging.”

The last message Zoe received from her auntie was that she was trying her hardest to keep fighting.

Maria’s family received a message on March 29 that they could go and see her, her husband Mark and eldest daughter Lisa, 37, went to the hospital.

But sadly they did not make it in time.

“She suffered alone and she died alone,” said Zoe.

A funeral was held for Maria on April 21, which just 10 people could attend.

The rest of the family waited outside the house to see the coffin but could not attend the service.

Zoe said: “She was from Waddon and it’s where she always lived. She deserves that sort of send off where the streets are full, she’s well known in Waddon.

Maria Elton

“Her front door was always open – she was an amazing person, there was nothing you couldn’t like about her, you could only love her.

“She deserves to be remembered and not as a statistic, that’s how we feel, the people dying have just become numbers and that’s not right at all.

“On the day of the funeral we couldn’t hug the family, it was such a strange feeling, I’ve never known anything like it.

“There are so many other families out there who have gone through this.”

The family are now hoping to get a bench with a plaque dedicated to Maria at Waddon Pond as it’s where they have shared many memories.

Maria was one of six daughters and has another five step siblings.

She leaves behind husband Mark Murray and children Lisa, 37, Zoe, 35, Jimmy, 32 and Charley, 26.

Maria also leaves behind six grandchildren Tyreese, 16, Mariah, 15, Faith, 14, Jimmy, 12, Grace, 11 and seven-year-old Lilly.

The family is hoping to hold a memorial service when they can all get together again.

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