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Married 68 years, B.C. couple dies of COVID-19 in separate hospitals hours apart

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A Burnaby man is sharing his heartbreak after losing both his mother and father to COVID-19 just hours apart on Sunday.

Alkarim Remtulla’s father Hassanali, 90, and mother Shahsultan, 90, were in separate hospitals when they passed away.

The couple, who had emigrated to Canada 20 years ago from Tanzania, had been married for 68 years.

Read more: Hospitalized B.C. COVID-19 patient speaks out: ‘Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I want to die’

“It was like somebody just chopped your legs (off),” Remtulla told Global News, Wednesday.

“I could not bear it. I was totally blank, I did not know what to do. Like I was left in the dark.”

Remtulla’s mother was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital in mid-November with a common infection, but tests later confirmed she had COVID-19 as well.

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His father was then tested and confirmed to have COVID-19 as well, though remained asymptomatic for a week and a half, before developing trouble breathing.

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He was rushed to Burnaby General hospital.

“It was really, really hard. That’s when I almost broke down in tears,” Remtulla said.

Read more: British Columbians share what it’s like having COVID-19

“I knew that they are not young. Suddenly I was feeling, ‘Is it the last thing I’m going to see? Are they going to be okay?'”

Then, on Sunday, things took a turn for the worse. Remtulla got a call from Burnaby General that his mother’s condition had deteriorated seriously and that her heart could fail.

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Intubated and unable to speak, Shahsultan said goodbye to her grandchildren by Facetime as he sat by her side.

“It was heartbreaking. I was right with my mom. I was holding her hand,” he said. “We were saying our prayers and exactly at 7 she left us.”

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Just hours later, Remtulla went to Burnaby General to visit his father, but said it was too difficult to break the news to him about his mother.

“I was holding (his) hand and I just started saying my prayers and he passed away,” he said.

“It felt like she was with me, telling (me) that I’m also going to take your dad with me.”

Remtulla’s parents were both well known for their volunteer work and community service both in Canada and in their home country.

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He said the mayor of his father’s hometown even phoned to give his condolences, having remembered his father for his work in the community decades ago.

READ MORE: ‘It’s not a hoax,’ says B.C. doctor hospitalized 105 days with coronavirus

Still grieving, Remtulla said he wanted to share his family’s story so that others know the human toll the virus is taking on families.

He urged those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax or just another flu to take it more seriously.

“It just takes one second of your time can save so many lives — and the emotions that people go through when they lose somebody,” he said.

— With files from Sarah MacDonald.