A prominent Dundee businessman has recalled the evening both his parents died from coronavirus within the space of an hour.
Graeme Carling, who purchased McGill in 2019, lost his parents Graeme and Margaret in separate Dundee hospitals in the same evening.
Mrs Carling, 65, was diagnosed with Covid-19 just after Christmas. In early January she was given just 24 hours to live but fought the disease for another fortnight.
Meanwhile her husband, 66, was admitted to Ninewells Hospital complaining of a sore head. He tested positive for coronavirus but seemed to respond well to oxygen treatment.
Two days before her death on January 19, Margaret was transferred from Ninewells to Roxburghe House at Royal Victoria Hospital. Her children Graeme and Michelle were permitted to visit.
Rush to Roxburghe House
Mr Carling said: “I took a phonecall from my sister at about 6pm saying our mum was away to pass.
“I rushed there and minutes later she passed away. It was awful and sad. A month earlier my mum was fine.
“I was walking up the corridor at Roxburghe House and my phone went – Ninewells Hospital.
“The nurse called and asked if now was a good time. I told her my mum had just died but still wanted to hear about my dad.
“She said he was doing OK. The oxygen was working but she’d have liked more improvement.
“We hadn’t really been worried about my dad. Our attention had been on mum. He was in high dependency but able to breath for himself.
“The nurse said ‘we’ll have to see how it goes in the next two days’. I said what do you mean?
“She said ‘he’s a bit aggressive and I don’t know if he’s getting a bit delusional. We’ve given him something to calm him down’.
“I was hearing it but not really taking that in at the time.”
Second phonecall from Ninewells nurse
Mr Carling asked his wife Leanne to go for a drive to Broughty Ferry so he could collect his thoughts.
On the way he phoned his dad’s eldest brother Bob to tell him about his mum’s death.
Then the nurse from Ninewells Hospital called again.
“She was in pieces – I’d only just told her about my mum,” Mr Carling said.
“She said ‘I’m really sorry but when I went back to the ward your dad had passed away’.
“I went completely white. I just thought this can’t be happening. Then I phoned my uncle back to tell him his brother had died now.
“It was complete and utter shock and I was in shock for a couple of months.
“It was my worst nightmare and so out of the blue. They were young. They didn’t need to go yet, they didn’t have to die. But they did.”
Children’s text messages sent to granddad
Mr Carling said his son Mitchell, 13, and daughter Blaire, 10, had been hit hard by the sudden loss of both grandparents.
At a double funeral in February, Mitchell played the bagpipes and read a eulogy.
Granddad, please come back. I love you
“When we got home I think the kids were expecting me to tell them about my mum but then I had to say their granddad had passed away as well,” he said.
“Mitchell was so close to my dad – he used to take him to Dens Park where he had a season ticket.
“My daughter has been texting him ‘granddad, please come back, I love you’ and ‘please, please, please come back’.
“We’re a really tight knit family.”
Couple married for more than 47 years
The couple met at a disco at Kirkton Community Centre and married in November 1973.
Mr Carling Snr worked at Dundee Plant Company Limited as a labourer then as a manager.
After a spell working as a transport manager in Dundee and Kent for Portway International, he became chief executive of North East Ice and Cold Storage in Peterhead.
His wife, also from Dundee, was a homemaker. The couple had three children – Graeme, Michelle and Wayne who died in 2006 at the age of 30 from oesophageal cancer. The Carling family raised more than £200,000 for cancer causes.
Mrs Carling had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition which causes breathing difficulties.
She was first admitted to Ninewells Hospital on December 22 at which point she had a negative Covid test. She was discharged on Christmas Eve.
The grandmother of seven was readmitted on December 29 and tested positive for coronavirus.
The family believe she caught Covid-19 during her first stay at Ninewells and then passed it to her husband.
Asked in for Covid vaccine day after death
“When I saw her at Roxburghe House she had moments of being lucid,” Mr Carling said.
“She was all wired up but she’d see me in the chair and you could see the joy in her face. It was heartbreaking. She couldn’t speak but was so happy to see me. That was horrible.
“After he was admitted to Ninewells on January 9, my dad didn’t ask about mum. I don’t know where he was mentally.
“We weren’t allowed to see him. We’d text him but when we opened his phone after the event he hadn’t read any of the messages.
“He didn’t know my mum had passed away – it was only the nurse I’d told and he was dead by the time she went back to his ward.
“There was just an hour between the deaths – you couldn’t write the script on that.”
The day after her death, Mrs Carling’s phone received a text message asking her to arrange her Covid vaccination.
‘A Kirkton boy done good’
He added: “It’s obviously been tough. There have been days you want to hide under the covers and not get up but we can’t do that.
“We’ve really got a good team of people. I don’t want sympathy.
“My dad has always been there for me. The guy I looked up to. A Kirkton boy made good.
“In recent years he was an important part of our team. He had a great way with people especially when we’ve been looking to make acquisitions.
“I can hear my dad saying to crack on and keep moving forward.
“Both my parents will be greatly missed.”