A hero surgeon who died of Covid while treating patients on the frontline had been double vaccinated but is not believed to have had a booster jab, his family has revealed.
Dr Irfan Halim, 45, who earned widespread praise for his work, passed away at Royal Brompton Hospital in London on November 14, surrounded by his heartbroken family following a nine-week battle against the virus.
His grieving widow Saila told MailOnline that he was double vaccinated, receiving the first at the end of last year and the second in January 2021 but she did not think he had received a booster jab.
But as he fought for his life, Dr Halim’s devoted family decided not to tell him that this father, Kamal Halim, 75, also a doctor was in another London hospital with coronavirus, which eventually killed him on 24 September.
Dr Irfan Halim, 45, who earned widespread praise for his work, passed away at Royal Brompton Hospital in London on November 14, surrounded by his heartbroken family (pictured, their last photo together) following a nine-week battle against the virus
Dr Halim (pictured), 45, who had been working in Swindon, Wiltshire, passed away at a London hospital last weekend after a nine-week battle with the virus
The devoted husband and father (pictured) spent his last moments in the arms of his wife, who said she was ‘whispering prayers and love into his ears’
He too had been double vaccinated but died of coronavirus at Northwick Park Hospital, North London.
Fighting back the tears, Dr Halim’s devastated wife Saila told MailOnline: ‘My husband worked away from London and I’m not sure which vaccine he received but he was double vaccinated and always wore full PPE when he was on the wards. He never said anything about getting the booster and I don’t think he got one.
‘It makes you question the efficiency of the vaccine but now is not the time for me to think about these things because I’m so heartbroken. It’s a double tragedy for the family and we are in too much pain to consider anything else.’
His death came just two months after he had taken up work on the Covid intensive care unit (ICU) wards at Great Western Hospital, Swindon where it is believed he contracted the virus before collapsing during a shift on September 10.
Dr Halim, a laparoscopic surgeon, lived apart from his family for four months while working with Covid patients there at the height of the pandemic.
He was thought of as a medical powerhouse and described by colleagues as like ’10 men in one body’ after treating 250,000 patients throughout his career.
After initially being treated at the Swindon hospital where he worked for coronavirus, he was transferred to the Royal Brompton Hospital on 26 September, where he received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment to help him breathe.
He went to work on September 10 but never returned after catching coronavirus and becoming increasingly ill. He is pictured with his children
Dr Halim (pictured with his wife), who was a father of four children under the age of 12, was a skilled surgeon at Swindon Hospital
His wife Saila Halim (pictured with her husband) said when he died she was ‘whispering prayers and love into his ears’
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Dr Halim qualified from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals Medical School in 2000 with prizes and distinctions.
He trained in general surgery with sub specialisation in laparoscopic gastrointestinal surgery on the North Thames Higher Surgical Rotation.
The medic completed his specialist training in GI surgery at UCL Hospitals, with additional specialist training in cancer surgery at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He won numerous awards and in 2014 became fellow to the Royal College of Surgeons England.
He was also qualified in law and has a master’s in surgical technology from Imperial College London as well as an MBA from the US. He previously worked as an NHS consultant surgeon at West Hertfordshire NHS Hospitals Trust and the North East London NHS Treatment Centre from 2016.
Dr Halim moved into full-time private practice and worked on day case procedures including gallbladder, hernia surgeries and cosmetic skin procedures.
During the pandemic he was shuffled on to the wards to help battle the virus and save lives at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire.
Fighting back the tears, Saila, 44 recalled Dr Halim’s last day, when he was surrounded at his bedside by her and their four children; Zara, 13; Adam, 12; Zain, 11 and Alisa, 5.
Dr Halim’s brother, sister and mother were also with him as he breathed his last.
Saila cried: ‘I held him in my arms and whispered prayers and love. We have lost our hero. He was an incredible husband, father and son. He was a best friend to the whole family.
‘We all feel empty and I’m not coping. He was my life, my world, my everything. Nothing could have prepared us for this.’
She recalled how her children had decorated his hospital room and spoke to him every day, either during visits of video calls as he battled coronavirus first in Swindon and then in London.
Saila said: ‘I was convinced that our love would pull him through. And even when he was in hospital, he was being his happy, loving self. He would play chess via video calls with our son and even dealt with work matters.’
Despite the dangers of working on the Covid frontline, Saila insisted that she never attempted to stop her husband, even though they had four young children.
She said: ‘He was an incredibly gifted and dedicated doctor, right up until the very end. He always put his patients first and continued to support them after their treatment.
‘Sometimes I would get very frustrated because it always felt as if he was in the hospital or working on medial matters. But he was a compassionate, caring man who made a real difference to people’s lives. I never tried to stop him from working with Covid patients because that was his life; caring for people.’
Dr Halim had spent the past two years saving Covid patients and on September 10 was on a ward round when he collapsed having allegedly caught Covid at work. His children are pictured
In a heart-breaking post on social media, Mrs Halim said: ‘Irfan you gave me fifteen magical years as your wife, four beautiful children, wonderful memories that will last me until my remaining days in this world.’ Pictured: A post on his GoFundMe
Saila said that she met Dr Halim in 2003 at an ice-skating rink, where he was her instructor.
She recalled: ‘I met my best friend and that was the person I went on to marry. The 18 years we were together were the best of my life and I will cherish them forever. The world has lost an incredibly caring human being.’
The couple married in 2006, with the couple going on to have four children, which Saila home schooled with Dr Halim’s assistance.
A GoFundMe page set up in Dr Halim’s memory with Saila revealing that the money raised will be used to support a number of charities that he was involved in.
She said: ‘This money is not for our family because Irfan has taken care of our financial position. He helped a lot of charities while he was alive, and we want his legacy to live on by raising funds for them in his name.’
The family has set up a Go Fund Me here.