Tributes paid to Durham GP after coronavirus death

Dr Poornima Nair, 56, is believed to be first female GP to die from virus

In 2013, Phil Graham developed some puzzling symptoms that affected his strength and ability to walk. Struggling to stay upright, he visited his local GP, who diagnosed the rare and at times deadly disease that was ravaging his nervous system: Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Graham, now 66, says his life was saved by that GP, Dr Poornima Nair. He was devastated to learn she had died on Tuesday after contracting the coronavirus.

“She made the right phone calls and ensured I got scanned and sorted out in rapid time. A lot of GPs with the best knowledge in the world don’t recognise Guillain-Barré syndrome because it’s so rare. People get misdiagnosed and people die,” said Graham, a former union branch secretary.

He spent 10 months in hospital paralysed from the neck down. There was a huge sense of relief when he was discharged in a wheelchair with some mobility returned to him. “It was her actions that led to me being treated properly and expeditiously,” Graham said. “She was like that with everybody. I’m not a special case here. She was genuinely loved in this community.”

Nair, 56, a GP at the Station View medical centre in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, was admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton on 20 March after showing symptoms of coronavirus.

She was put on life support on 27 March, and she is believed to be the first female GP to die from the virus. She is not thought to have had any underlying health issues.

Nair’s son, Varun, described her as a loving mother who “lived life to the fullest and spread joy and positivity to everyone that came in contact with her”.

He said: “She had an unwavering passion and love for her family, friends and every professional endeavour she took in life and her ambition and vitality inspired all around her. She devoted the last 26 years of her life working for the NHS.

“Her limitless love for her family, friends and patients can never be replaced and our memories of her life and her sacrifices will continue to inspire us.”

Nair moved to the UK from India in 1994 and worked in obstetrics and gynaecology at Bishop Auckland hospital before joining Station View.

Graham said: “She was a very conversational doctor. She had a deep and loving care for human beings in general. She worked entirely for the care and welfare of people,. They could talk to Dr Nair rather than it just being a consultation. She had conversations with people, often putting them at ease with the most horrendous diagnoses.”

The Conservative MP Dehenna Davison said: “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the heartbreaking loss of Dr Poornima Nair after contracting coronavirus.”

Nair’s colleague Sarah Westgarth, a practice manager, described Nair as “a truly really inspirational female and an extremely hard worker. Her heart was huge and always full with love for anybody for anybody who crossed her path.”

She said it had been a difficult time for the entire practice, who would all miss Nair. “She is the first female GP to pass away from Covid-19. Our children will be writing about Dr Nair in their history exams.”


Aamna Mohdin

The GuardianTramp

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