Husband and wife die 10 days apart in same hospital from COVID-19

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A care home boss and her husband died with coronavirus in the same hospital just 10 days apart.

Retired radiologist James Oniah, 79, and his wife Mary, 61, who worked for the Maria Mallaband Care Group, both lost their lives in King George Hospital in Redbridge.

The couple, moved to the UK from Africa and lived in Ilford, with Mrs Oniah having trained in Zambia before coming to London to work as a midwife and then moving into care home management.

Her husband chaired a foundation to support other ex-pats from his home city of Onitsha in Nigeria.

The Zambians Together initiative, set up to help the community through the pandemic, has started a fundraising campaign for the couple’s family, so far raising more than £16,000.

They wrote on the GoFundMe appeal: “They ended the fight for their lives against Covid-19 at King George Hospital in London 10 days apart, leaving behind children and a wider network of family and friends who all considered them their mum and dad.”

A spokesman for the MMCG care homes group, which runs more than 80 homes across the UK, said: “Mary was a valued colleague and friend to many people in our company, she will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to her family at this difficult time.”

Kier Arvin, a colleague, described her as “passionate, determined and dedicated”, saying: “A truly wonderful lady who with her infectious smile, deeply held compassion for others and a twinkle in her eye, touching the lives of everyone lucky enough to have called her a colleague and a friend.”

Patricia Okechukwu, secretary of the Onitsha Progressive Foundation, described Mr Oniah as: “A very funny man, very jovial, who enjoyed life and was proud of his heritage.”

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-dr-james-and-mary-nyirongo-oniah

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Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter