THE WIFE of an 85-year-old man from Caldicot who died after contracting coronavirus at the Royal Gwent Hospital says she has been "overwhelmed" by the support of her community.

Val Sweeney, 73, who also cannot attend her husband James’ funeral due to lockdown guidelines, described his death and the "cold” atmosphere of the funeral process as a "horrible dream" - but is grateful to nurses at the Royal Gwent, and funeral organisers, for their hard work in very challenging times.

James (Jim) Sweeney was admitted to the Royal Gwent on March 12 after suspected seizures due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

He tested negative for Covid-19, but his symptoms worsened and after he was re-tested on March 29, he and Mrs Sweeney received the news that he was positive.

South Wales Argus:

Val and Jim Sweeney in their younger years

“I was told I had to leave and I wouldn’t be able to visit again due to potentially carrying the virus,” said Mrs Sweeney.

“It was heartbreaking.”

After Mrs Sweeney’s daughter Louise - also in lockdown in the United Arab Emirates - suggested they ask for a phone to be taken to the hospital so messages could be played to her father, Mrs Sweeney made the plea through the Caldicot Community Group on Facebook.

She said she received hundreds of offers of support, with some residents offering a phone and also to take it to the hospital themselves.


“Louise and I spoke to Jim every day and left messages," she said.

"I don’t think he knew we were talking to him very often, but I knew when he thanked me and said he loved me.

“He also told Louise it would ‘all blow over’ when she explained to him that we couldn’t visit, which was so fitting of his character. They were his last words to us - ‘Don’t worry, it’ll all blow over’.”

South Wales Argus:

Mr Sweeney spent time as a pub landlord and a postmaster before moving to Caldicot 15 years ago

Mr Sweeney died in hospital on April 3, and a funeral will be held on April 17.

His wife was taken aback on the evening after her husband’s death when members of the community group who had seen her posts arrived with groceries and other donations.

“I thought they were salespeople at first. I was overwhelmed - it was a wonderful gesture from an extraordinary community,” she said.

South Wales Argus:

Some of the donations given to Val by residents in Caldicot

Due to being a vulnerable person, Mrs Sweeney cannot attend the funeral, and says not being able to say goodbye in the way she would like has been the hardest part.

“It’s like a horrible dream," she said.

"It’s been so impersonal and cold, although I have to say it’s been handled brilliantly by the organisers - Philip Blatchley and Rev Jon Walters.

“On April 17 the coffin will be brought home for a few minutes for us to say our final farewells.

“We will also have a proper memorial service when the time is right, to celebrate Jim’s life and the person he was.”