A 36-year-old woman died at her South London apartment Saturday, one day after dialing 999 to complain of suspected COVID-19 symptoms.
Kayla Williams‘ husband said the mother of three was suffering a cough, high fever, chest and stomach pains so severe paramedics were called to their Peckham home last Friday, where Williams was seen and ultimately told to “self-care” at her residence.
“I called 999 because my wife was breathless, she was vomiting, and she had pains in her stomach,” said husband Fabian Williams, according to The Guardian. “As I was talking to them she was getting worse, and they told me to put her on the floor and to make her body flat.”
Paramedics arrived around 8:30 p.m. and conducted a few tests, he said. Fabian was shocked to learn that was the extent of the care his sick wife would receive that night.
“[The paramedic] told me the hospital won’t take her, she is not a priority,” he explained. “She didn’t stay very long and she went outside to write her report and posted it through the door.”
Documents obtained by The Guardian show Kayla Williams was being treated as a suspected COVID-19 case. After their first visit, paramedics recorded that she was suffering a “non-productive cough, headache and chest pains all over” — all symptoms of the highly contagious disease that has infected nearly 500,000 people globally.
Fabian Williams said his wife’s condition only worsened from there.
The next morning, he ran her a bath and helped her to get dressed, as she was too weak. He fed her a bowl of soup before taking a rest for himself. Fabian said he returned to check on his wife a short time later and found her slumped, head down in the living room.
He immediately called 999, who instructed him to begin chest compressions as the paramedics were in route to their home.
Emergency crews arrived soon after and tried to revive Williams, but it was too late.
“She was already dead,” Fabian Williams said.
Police visited the following day, he said, but refused to enter their home. A funeral director came a short time later to collect the body. Fabian Williams recalled how staffers were dressed head to toe in hazmat gear, full masks and gloves.
His wife’s remains were wrapped in a sheet and placed in a body bag — procedures The Guardian notes are required in infectious disease deaths. It’s still unclear if Kayla Williams actually had the virus, and her husband said he hasn’t heard anything from medical officials since then.
“They have left me here and said I must isolate,” he told the outlet. “They haven’t told me anything else. I am a diabetic. I take insulin. All I know is I am supposed to isolate. No one has mentioned her body being tested or anything.”
A rep for the London ambulance service confirmed crews that responded to calls of an unwell individual at home in Peckham last week, after which the patient was treated and advised to “call back if their condition changed.”
“We were called the following day at 3.24 p.m. and sent a number of resources, with our first medics arriving in under seven minutes,” they added. “Sadly, the patient had died. Our sympathy is with the family at this time.”
Similar cases of Black women getting sick and dying from suspected COVID-19 symptoms have also been reported in the United States. A DeKalb County, Georgia, woman passed away this week after initially being turned away from the hospital, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
In New York City, the sister of a Brooklyn school teacher said it took three trips to the hospital before she was finally tested for the virus; she’s now intubated and on a ventilator at Brookdale Hospital.