SINGAPORE - The husband and three children of Ms Salha Mesbee - the youngest patient here to die from the coronavirus - gathered at her bedside in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital just hours before her death.
Ms Salha, 58, had been declared virus-free nine days earlier, but the infection had already taken a toll on her body, her daughter told The Straits Times. Her vital organs, including her kidneys and liver, were failing and she was in a bad shape.
The hospital made an exception to allow the family in on her last day, said her eldest child, Ms Siti Noraisah Ali, 37.
"The doctor certified her brain dead and she was relying on the life support machine. For my dad, it was heart-wrenching to see her like this. We decided to let her go."
At about 2pm on April 30 - after more than a month in hospital - her life support was turned off.
Ms Salha - who was Case 703 - had visited Turkey for 10 days with husband Ali Buang, 61, to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary.
The housewife tested positive for the coronavirus on March 26 after returning to Singapore and was sent to the ICU a few days later after reporting breathlessness.
Mr Ali also contracted the virus and was warded at NTFGH.
Their two sons, aged 23 and 32, tested positive as well and were isolated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. They did not travel to Turkey with their parents.
All three have since been discharged.
Ms Siti believes her father had contracted the virus while he was in Turkey, as he had developed a fever the day before returning to Singapore.
About a week before her mother's death, a doctor told her by phone that she was free of the coronavirus, she added.
However, the illness had affected Ms Salha's organs.
"Doctors said she was one of the more critical patients," she noted. "They told me to be prepared."
On the evening of April 29, a doctor informed her that Ms Salha's eyes were not responding to light.
"So they sent her for a CT scan and found swelling in her brain," said Ms Siti, a housewife who runs a home-based business.
Her mother's condition had deteriorated, and arrangements were made for the family to visit.
"When we saw her, we told her we were here and hoped that she would wake up," Ms Siti recalled.
"She had been fighting very hard and won against Covid-19, but her body was already in a bad shape. We realised that it was time to say goodbye."
After her death, Ms Salha's family was able to bring her body home for funeral rites as she had been declared virus-free.
She was buried on May 1.
Ms Siti said: "Maybe God wanted us to have one last look at her. We are very grateful that we were able to pay our last respects."
Ms Salha, who left behind her husband, their three children and five grandchildren, had a wide circle of friends and was an active member at her mosque and residents' committee.
Ms Siti said her mother was often the life of the party: "If you met her for just five minutes, you would remember her."
The family have been keeping Mr Ali company in recent days. "
He is trying his best to get by, but there would be days when we would see him just staring outside," said Ms Siti.
Mr Ali, who was discharged from hospital on April 22, told the ST that he feels "emotionally, mentally and physically drained".
"Only time will tell," said the retired civil defence officer, adding that he would think of his wife every waking moment.
"I was with her for 38 years and she was always by my side. She is the love of my life."