A heavily-pregnant nurse working with Covid patients at the start of the pandemic felt “pressured” to return to work despite concerns for her safety, her inquest heard.
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, 28, was a sister at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital and worked on the wards up until 12 March 2020 when she was signed off work with back problems, her widower Ernest Boateng told Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner’s Court.
But Boateng said she continued to go in to hospital to confirm her ill-health, and to attend medical appointments.
Agyapong was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties on 5 April but was discharged later that day, and was readmitted two days later with coronavirus symptoms, at 35 weeks pregnant.
Surgeons safely delivered the baby, also named Mary, by Caesarean section before Agyapong was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she died on 12 April.
The preliminary cause of death was given as pneumonia and Covid-19.
Giving evidence to the inquest, Boateng said: “Mary continued to work during this time (the start of the coronavirus outbreak), but she was very concerned about the situation involving Covid-19, so much so that when she came home from work she would take her clothes off at the front door and take a shower immediately.
“She was very worried about bringing Covid into the home.”
Boateng, a mental health worker currently studying for a Masters in law, said she also began sleeping in the spare room at the family home to protect her husband and their son, AJ.
Boateng, 30, added: “She told me the staff were very scared about the virus because they were on the front line and likely to come into contact with Covid-19 patients.
“I wanted her to stay at home. But due to high demand at the hospital, she had to continue working.
“She tried to reassure me that everything would be okay but I could understand she was anxious and panicking deep down.”
Boateng said he strongly believed his wife, originally from Ghana, contracted coronavirus while at work.
He said: “My understanding is Mary was being pressurised to get back to work, as she had meetings about her sickness records earlier that year.”
He said Agyapong “struggled” with her second pregnancy and “continued to work long, 12-hour shifts”.
“She found it very tiring and difficult,” he said.
Boateng said he was not allowed onto the maternity ward to be with his wife when she gave birth to their daughter on April 7 and described the huge impact of her death on the family.
He said: “What was supposed to be a happy moment in our lives quickly changed into a traumatic and painful loss.
“Every day my children have to deal with the loss of their mother and I feel helpless when AJ asks when he can see his mother again.”
The inquest opened on Tuesday, on a national day of reflection to remember those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The hearing continues.