Grandma’s lonely final hours after Ruby Princess infection
Devoted grandmother Janet Lieben died a solitary death from the coronavirus in a hospital ICU cubicle with her infected husband locked in isolation doors away.
"He was absolutely distraught, he's inconsolable," an Orange Base Hospital source said.
"He couldn't comfort her, he's sick himself with the virus, there was nothing he could do but let her go, it's broken his heart."
Effervescent retired factory worker, Janet 67, and husband Jerry, a retired senior non-commissioned officer with the Australian Army, had been on the Ruby Princess cruise that docked at Sydney Harbour after an 11 day round trip to NZ and were ordered into self-isolation at their home in Blayney, NSW on March 19.
It is not clear when they both felt unwell.
They had been on an international reunion cruise with Jerry's former work colleagues organised by the Air Dispatch Association Australia (ADAA) for 23 other Australians and members from Britain, New Zealand and America.
A number of Australians in the party are battling the virulent virus, some gravely ill in hospital.
"I spoke with Jerry two days ago and he was very worried about Janet, he said he couldn't wait to get rid of the virus and visit Janet, when we spoke he had a rasping voice and tight chest, typical symptoms of the coronavirus, he was not well but I understand he has recently improved," said ADAA President Nick Nicolai, a retired army member who was on board the cruise ship.
"Jerry is an ex Vietnam veteran and Janet was a vibrant, wonderful woman and was very healthy.
"We're a very tight knit community; Janet's death has affected us all.
"Initially we weren't made aware people on the cruise had tested positive for the coronavirus, we were just advised to go to sick bay if we felt unwell.
"The vessel was clean, the staff professional, I have no issue with the Ruby Princess. A number of Australians in our group have got the virus and are in various forms of recovery, from fine to not very well at all and in hospital."
The Western New South Wales Local Health District has confirmed Ms Lieben died from complications related to COVID-19 overnight, taking the total number of state deaths to ten and raising the country's COVID-19 mortality rate to 21.
Today Mrs Lieben's friends and family told of a warm, kindly, woman who found love later in life after meeting jerry more than 20 years ago.
She brought joy to Jerry, who had been married previously, and considered his children and grandchildren her own.
"They were joined at the hip and find everything together, he absolutely adored Janet and she loved him deeply too - they had something very special, I'm not sure how he will cope without her," one friend who asked not to be named said.
"Her nickname was Kiwi because she was from New Zealand, she adored her dogs.
"She lost her mother and her sister and her motto in life is 'don't wait for me to pass to have a good time'.
"She's the life and soul and had the biggest heart, it's incredibly sad to think she died alone, she didn't deserve that, she was always there for any of her friends who needed help."
Tributes poured in for the dog lover who had worked with her husband as factory workers with Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in NSWLive Data Source: Health Protection NSW
Close friend Trish Dunn Farr wrote on Facebook:" People still aren't getting the message … JUST STAY HOME!
"This is now someone I know and worked with for many years.
"Kiwi always said it like it was & never held back.
"Thank you for the belief, love and support you gave me during my recent diagnosis.
"Thinking of your family right now & praying for Jerry "
One relative wrote: "What a cruel world we live in. absolutely shattered."
Friend Margot Drake write: "Kiwi was our wonderful friend and neighbour. We are devastated. We shall miss you terribly Kiwi. Know that Jerry will be surrounded by friendship and love. You will make one heck on an angel."
Mr Nicolai wrote: "It is with great sadness, I must inform everybody of the passing of Janet (Kiwi) Lieben, Jerry Lieben's wife.
"Her passing was as a result of Covid 19 after travelling with our International Reunion group, on board the Ruby Princess. Jerry is still in hospital and still fighting. No other details are known at this stage. Our sincere condolences go to Jerry and the family.
"I ask people to contact me as opposed to trying to contact Jerry as he is still very sick."
Mrs Lieben's death comes after NSW recorded the death of a 95-year-old resident of the Dorothy Henderson Lodge, who passed away at the aged care facility in Sydney during the early hours of Wednesday.
On March 3, another 95-year-old resident became Australia's second confirmed death.
Three other elderly residents, an 82-year-old man on March 9, a 90-year-old woman on March 14, and a 91-year-old woman on March 28, have also passed away.
Nationally, the current number of confirmed cases of the virus stands at 4,862, with that number expected to exceed 5,000 in under 24 hours.
NSW Health confirmed 150 new cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the state's total to 2,182.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday said the state has now completed more than 103,000 tests for COVID-19.
Originally published as NSW grandma's lonely final hours after Ruby Princess infection