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Family's agony Covid victim Samantha Willis' grieving husband hopes she 'haunts' him

"Eviegrace is always staring into space and I often wonder if she'd be able to see Samantha," says the 36-year-old.

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Josh Willis nurses baby Eviegrace yesterday.

Josh Willis nurses baby Eviegrace yesterday.

Josh Willis nurses baby Eviegrace yesterday.

The grieving husband of tragic Covid-death mum Samantha Willis is praying she keeps her promise - that she would haunt him.

Josh Willis told the Sunday World that Samantha, who passed away last week after giving birth to the couple's daughter Eviegrace, vowed to haunt him if she ever died first.

Speaking from his home in the Strathfoyle area of Derry with his three-week-old daughter, Josh told us he hoped Samantha was true to her word.

"Eviegrace is always staring into space and I often wonder if she'd be able to see Samantha," says the 36-year-old.

"People who are into that spiritual stuff always say babies have a better chance of seeing spirits. I don't know if it's true, but the baby always seems to be staring at something up high.

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Josh Willis washes and dresses his baby daughter.

Josh Willis washes and dresses his baby daughter.

Josh Willis washes and dresses his baby daughter.

"Samantha always said she'd come back and haunt me if she died first.

"Obviously, we didn't expect it to be this soon but I'm saying to her 'come on ahead then, haunt me, just like you promised'.

"I hope she does, I could do with the help. I miss her so much. The small things like her putting her cold feet on me when she gets onto bed."

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Samantha Willis with Josh on their wedding day.

Samantha Willis with Josh on their wedding day.

Samantha Willis with Josh on their wedding day.

He says Eviegrace is doing great, eating and sleeping and completely oblivious to what has happened.

"The night feeds are new to me because for Lilyanna (the couple's four-year-old) Samantha breastfed and she was planning to do the same with Eviegrace.

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"I'm getting used to them and just getting through it. Samantha was so well organised and had all the baby clothes sorted out so I'm hoping things just fall into place.

"Everyone says Eviegrace is Samantha's double but I don't see it just yet. I know exactly how Samantha wanted the children raised and how she wanted the house and I'll do my best to see it all done that way.

"I just hope Samantha is looking down and seeing I'm doing a good job, that I'm making her proud. Hopefully when I die - not for another 40 years at least - she'll tell me I did a good job."

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Josh with Samantha.

Josh with Samantha.

Josh with Samantha.

Josh says this Wednesday will be a difficult day as Lilyanna starts her first day at school.

He said: "That's going to be tough because Samantha should be here to hold her hand and walk her into school for the first time.

"There's going to be lots of days like that - Christmas, birthdays, First Communions and weddings. We'll never get over it but we'll have to get through it."

The brave father is soldiering on through the most traumatic of situations which all started when Samantha was taken into hospital almost four weeks ago suffering from coronavirus.

Derry was united in grief as Eviegrace was baptised during Samantha's funeral service at St Columb's Church on Monday.

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Eviegrace at the funeral.

Eviegrace at the funeral.

Eviegrace at the funeral.

Samantha became seriously ill and struggled to breathe meaning her unborn child was in danger so on August 5 doctors decided to perform an emergency caesarean section to try to save them both.

Josh explained: "On that Thursday morning she had to get a section. Eviegrace was born and around lunchtime they took Samantha into ICU.

"She barely saw Eviegrace for even a few seconds."

Samantha was treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks and various medications.

She responded so well over the weekend of August 7-8 that she was released back into the Covid respiratory ward on the Monday, giving hope to the family she would make a full recovery.

But things took a turn and Samantha ended up back in ICU where she was put on a ventilator and induced coma and then passed away last Friday morning.

Josh has been speaking out about his nightmare in the hope it will convince others to get vaccinated.

"I can't tell people what to do but I can tell our story and the truth is Samantha wasn't vaccinated," he says.

"We found out she was pregnant on Boxing Day and the advice then was for pregnant women not to get it so we basically hibernated, going out very little and seeing few people.

"When they changed the advice we thought 'well, we've got this far so we'll just be extra careful and see it through' and then when the baby is born Samantha would be vaccinated.

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Baby Eviegrace.

Baby Eviegrace.

Baby Eviegrace.

"So people have to wonder now if it's worth risking not getting jabbed. Samantha had no underlying health conditions. When she went in the doctors told us she was otherwise healthy, had age on her side and had a good chance.

"But her lungs just couldn't take anymore in the end. They were full of Covid and the doctors couldn't give her anymore oxygen as she was already on 100 per cent.

"All her organs were working perfectly well right up until the end so it was Covid that killed her. Nothing else."

Josh says he's been told his words have already had an effect.

"A friend of Samantha's told me she queued at the Foyle Arena last week for three hours to get jabbed because of what happened to us," says Josh.

"And others have told me they know of people who said they decided to get vaccinated after reading our story. That's the only reason I put what I said up on Facebook - to try and reach people."

Josh says there's plenty of big things they are going to miss about Samantha but that they will just have to carry on.

"At the graveside I'm sure I heard her talking to me, telling me we can't change anything, so we have to just batter on with it," he says.

"She was the most incredible person. She always put others first, She would put strangers before herself. She loved her job as a care worker out in the community. She always went above and beyond her duties."

Because of her reputation as a selfless caring person, a GoFundMe fundraising page in her memory had yesterday already raised over £13,000.

Josh says the donations and the kind comments about Samantha were helping him through it.

  • Donations can be made at the Friends of Samantha Willis Gofundme page - https://www.gofundme.com/f/friends-of- samantha-willis-fundraiser.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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