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Woman from Diss, 31, dies of coronavirus

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A 31-year-old woman from Diss has died after contracting coronavirus, becoming one of the youngest reported deaths in East Anglia.

Laura Turner-Hewitt, the winner of the inaugural junior good citizen of Diss award, died on Wednesday morning, less than two weeks after being diagnosed with the virus.

Miss Turner-Hewitt, who had mild learning disabilities, first came down with a headache on April 8, but was not showing any of the normal symptoms of coronavirus, such as a cough or breathlessness.

Rachel Turner-Hewitt and Laura Turner-Hewitt (33917724)
Rachel Turner-Hewitt and Laura Turner-Hewitt (33917724)

Four days later, on Easter Sunday, she began having pains in her chest, and staff at the sheltered housing complex where she lived called an ambulance, which took her to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, where she was diagnosed with Covid-19 and pneumonia.

After 48 hours in hospital, her condition began to deteriorate, and she was admitted into intensive care, where she was put on a ventilator and remained until her death eight days later.

Her mother, Rachel Turner-Hewitt, paid tribute to Laura, who was a well-known figure around Diss, winning Diss Town Council’s first Junior Good Citizen award in 2002, and volunteering at Break, a charity shop in Mere Street for vulnerable children in Diss, for more than six years.

Mrs Turner-Hewitt, 65, of Appletree Lane, Roydon, said: “She was a very special young lady. Everybody knew Laura – she had such a beautiful personality. She was so full of love, and so thoughtful.”

After growing up in Champney’s Road in Diss, she moved to Bowthorpe Care Village in Norwich, where her mother said she had “absolutely blossomed and begun living her life to the full, as an independent young woman”.

“She used to bug so many people, just to talk to them, and everybody took it in good spirit, and loved chatting to her,” said Mrs Turner-Hewitt.

“I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of messages, which have been so comforting, and such a tribute to Laura, and how she was.”

She also paid tribute to the nursing staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

She said: “Laura received the most excellent care from all of the nursing staff – they were so compassionate.”

“One of the nurses said that she had been playing songs from Frozen, which Laura absolutely loved, and said that they had been dancing around her bed and singing to her, which I thought was so lovely.”

On Easter Sunday, during the brief window between being admitted to hospital and being moved to intensive care, Laura called her mother using one of the nurse’s mobile phones.

“She was completely breathless, in total distress, telling me ‘I want you here, mum – I need you here, mum’.

“I was absolutely powerless to do anything apart from say ‘don’t get upset Laura, you’ll be alright’ – that was just horrendous.

“During her life, she’s been in and out of hospital. As a small child, as a young adult, and every single time, I was with her.

“To not be able to go to your child was absolutely heart wrenching. You can’t imagine how that feels, when you’re a mum.

“I just hoped she would be alright, but, as the week went on, and she remained in intensive care, on a ventilator, not improving, as a mother you get an instinct that this won’t end well, but you have to stay positive for your children.”

As only 10 people are allowed to attend Laura’s funeral, Mrs Turner-Hewitt said that her, along with Laura’s step-dad Alan, and two siblings Nicola and Matthew, and step-sister, also named Nicola, are preparing a service to celebrate her life at St Mary’s Church in Diss, once lockdown measures are lifted.

She said: “When this madness is all over, we want to hold the service so that everybody who knew her and loved her can come and bring their own little bit of Laura.”

Mrs Turner-Hewitt said she hoped her daughter’s death will persuade people to heed government advice to stay indoors.

She said: “Take notice of what the Government guidelines are, because anybody can catch this.

“If you had to walk a day in the shoes that my family and I have walked in over the last week, you would understand the devastation that these things can do.

“She deteriorated so quickly from this awful virus. Now it’s left this big whole, and nothing will ever fill it.”

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