Karen Birtwell’s heartbroken husband thought he had been taken to the wrong bed, when he was allowed to see her in her final hours as she looked so different
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Karen with daughters Jessica, Lauren, and Ellie May (Image: Peter Birtwell / SWNS)
A brave mum-of-five has lost her battle with coronavirus after spending seven weeks alone in hospital.
Karen Birtwell, 42, had "aged 20 years" during her gruelling fight against the killer virus which left her bed bound for almost two months.
The mum, who had asthma since she was 13, was rushed to hospital on Sunday, April 5 due to a shortness of breath.
Her family say they never believed she would be in a life-threatening situation until she was put on a ventilator – after her condition deteriorated rapidly.
Her heartbroken husband Peter, 39, says it was a traumatic experience, as he wasn't allowed to visit his wife while she fought for her life.
Karen Birtwell died aged just 42 from coronavirus
(Image: Peter Birtwell / SWNS)
He was finally allowed to see her on the day of her death but tragically he told doctors they'd brought him to the wrong bed as she was "completely unrecognisable".
Peter, from Burnley, Lancashire, said: "This entire experience has been so traumatic.
"As a family we're trying to pull together and we're doing as well as we can, but it's been hard.
"I was allowed to see her on the day she died after seven long weeks. We had to withdraw treatment because she'd gotten so poorly.
"But I couldn't let her die alone.
"Not knowing how she was doing all those days was heartbreaking. I just wanted to know how my wife was doing.
"She aged about 20 years in those weeks. When the doctors took me to see her, I told them they brought me to the wrong bed because I couldn't recognise her.
"It was awful."
Peter paid tribute to a "wonderful wife" and "brilliant mother".
They met through friends 10 years ago and married in August 2012. They have two children together, little Lauren, 8, and Ellie, 6.
Peter, a baker, said: "She was a happy go lucky girl, Karen.
"She was always the life and soul of any room she walked into.
Karen Birtwell and husband Peter Birtwell
(Image: Peter Birtwell / SWNS)
"I can't thank her enough for everything she has given me, for the kids and the family I have.
"At the end, I'm happy she is no longer in pain and suffering.
Karen's ex-husband, Alex Catterall, 46, says he doesn't know how to tell their three children that they won't ever see their mum again.
Alex, from Burnley, Lancashire, said: "Karen and I were very close, we have three children together.
"She was a big part of my life and always will be.
"Her breathing issues were never fatal, I would have never imagined that she wouldn't come back from the hospital.
"It's been devastating for me, for Peter, and for the children.
"It's been a traumatic experience, and one that's impossible to describe.
"How do you talk to a kid and tell them they won't be able to see their mummy again, it's just heartbreaking.
"Karen was an absolutely lovely woman. She loved life, she was an angel and a terrific mother.
"She was a fighter and was always determined in anything she did.
"She was an amazing mum and I can't thank her enough for giving me three beautiful children."
Karen spent most of her working life in various NHS auxiliary and care roles and looked after the elderly in care homes.
She always dreamed of becoming a qualified nurse and she began a degree course in mental health at Burnley College last year to make that dream a reality.