A tribute from the widow of renowned obstetrician Prof Jim Dornan has laid bare the stark reality of the fight against Covid-19.
The consultant gynaecologist died at King’s College Hospital in Dubai on Monday of complications surrounding Covid-19, despite receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in January.
Dornan, 73, was admitted to hospital for routine knee surgery on February 24.
Three days later, his oxygen saturation level dropped and doctors diagnosed a pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.
A Covid-19 test returned positive, despite Dornan recording a negative PCR test two days before his surgery.
As his condition deteriorated, he was placed on a ventilator. He later had a fatal heart attack.
Tributes have been paid to Dornan, who was a champion of women’s reproductive rights in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years.
He moved to Dubai in 2019 when his wife, Dr Samina Dornan, was appointed head of the maternal foetal medicine department at King’s College Hospital.
Her husband was head of department at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in Bahrain and taught medical students.
Dornan left behind two daughters, Liesa and Jessica, and son Jamie, the Hollywood actor.
"It is difficult to explain the loss as my mind is not accepting it," Dr Dornan told The National.
“We were of one mind and soul.
“All of his colleagues and consultants were there for him day and night.
“I had a heartwarming but sad call from the head of the intensive care unit who said he wanted to save everyone, but particularly Jim because of what he had given back to medicine.
“He felt a huge loss that he was unable to save him.”
Dr Samina met her husband in Dublin in 1999, a year after the death of Dornan’s first wife, Lorna, from pancreatic cancer.
The family had strong connections with the Northern Ireland PanC group, established in partnership with Pancreatic Cancer Action and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.
His many figurehead roles in medicine included those of chairman of health and life sciences at the University of Ulster and of foetal medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.
Dornan never stopped promoting women’s rights, whether in Northern Ireland, Africa or in South Asia, his wife said.
In Pakistan, he worked on introducing the maternal mortality register and was always a promoter of education, safe childbirth and equality.
The couple met in December 1999, Jim a visiting professor in Dublin and Samina, a junior doctor.
“Despite our [different] age, race and religion, our minds clicked straight away and we worked together across continents,” said Dr Dornan, who was born in Pakistan.
“Jim was proud of my achievements and he was always understanding, kind and helping. He was very happy in his own skin, which is very rare,” she said.
“As a father, he was always enthusiastic and encouraged his children to aim high and then celebrate their achievements. He was a very proud father.”
Dr Dornan described the sickening moment she notified her husband’s three children that their father had died.
Jamie Dornan, a successful Hollywood actor, was the first person she called.
“Jim’s children are distraught,” she said.
“The first person I could get in contact with was Jamie. I spoke with him at 3.30am.
“He is in Australia at the moment, filming and in quarantine with his wife and three daughters.
“I felt like I put a knife through his heart when I told him the most terrible news. I later spoke with Liesa and Jessica. You could not deliver any worse news than this.
“The messages from all around the world have been wonderful.
“He was loved so much.”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions in Dubai, a small memorial is planned on Thursday to remember Dornan.
The family hope to commemorate his life together once travel restrictions are lifted, probably in Connemara in the west of Ireland, a special place for him.
“It is where his soul would want to be,” Dr Dornan said.
“Jim was only here for a year but his students and colleagues wanted to hold a memorial for him. That is how highly he was thought of.”
Vaccines, meanwhile, do not offer anyone total protection against the virus but Dr Dornan still urged everyone to be inoculated.
“Covid-19 is an awful disease,” she said. “You do not know which system of your body will be hit.
“It does not matter if you are or old young, vaccinated or not, diabetic or asthmatic – do not take this virus lightly. It can still take you.
“Wear a mask and be vigilant, even if you have been vaccinated.”