Stoke City hero Wayne Biggins has witnessed and suffered the trauma of coronavirus first hand in a family trauma which is still ongoing.
Biggins has lost his mother-in-law Dolly to the virus while his brother-in-law Paul Barber has now been in intensive care on a ventilator for nine weeks.
The 58-year-old former striker and his wife have also had the disease, as well as their son Harrison, who plays for Fleetwood Town.
“It’s been an unbelievable, wretched time,” he said. “We are still sitting by the phone for updates at 6pm every night from the hospital with Paul but thankfully the rest of us have pulled through in terms of our health.
“Neither my mother-in-law nor brother-in-law had underlying health problems.
“We would see Dolly every day and even though she was 85 she was fit and well and healthy up until a Friday in the spring when she felt a bit ill. She went in hospital on the Monday night and never woke up again.
“She was a lovely woman but only eight people were allowed at the funeral, which was so sad.
“Paul walked into an ambulance on the Tuesday afternoon saying, ‘See you soon’ but was moved to intensive care on the Thursday and has now been there for nine weeks. We’re relying on the doctors to tell us what’s happening and obviously still can’t visit.
“He’s always been a healthy man who would come to watch Stoke games. It’s terrible.
“We’ve not been able to see our son, daughter and grandchild and we hope and pray that better times lie ahead.”
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Biggins himself was knocked out by the virus for a week last month.
“It came in my head, legs and chest,” he said.
“I’d had a chest infection only a few weeks previously so got in touch with the doctor to ask for some more antibiotics which had helped clear that up. The doctor sent some through, I took it for a week and it really helped, although I was still tired.”
Harrison Biggins, the 24-year-old midfielder who has helped Fleetwood challenge for promotion from League One this season, has also recovered.
His manager Joey Barton, who has worked as an NHS volunteer responder, thinks he might have had it himself and self-isolated for two weeks at the start of the UK lockdown.
It has all understandably knocked football off the top of the agenda for Biggins Sr, who has run his own timber business in Sheffield for 22 years.
“It’s taken a back seat,” he said. “I’ve not had Sky on or anything recently and until we find a vaccine I can’t get past thinking it’s extremely difficult to get back to normal.
“It’s people’s health and lives which are at stake. It’s crazy.”
But that love for football and Stoke will remain strong in the long term.
He said: “I loved my time at Stoke and I still keep in touch with most of the lads and talk to Terry Conroy.
“I’m hoping that as soon as we can that we can all meet up again and have a big party and I can’t wait for that.”