First working NHS surgeon dies from coronavirus

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Saturday March 28, 2020

Dr Adil el Tayar had worked around the world Photograph: NHS

An organ transplant specialist has become the first working NHS surgeon to die from coronavirus.

Adil El Tayar, 63, died on Wednesday at West Middlesex university hospital in London, his family said.

The doctor, who had worked around the world, spent his final days volunteering on the frontlines against the outbreak in an A&E department in the Midlands.

“He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis,” his cousin, British-Sudanese journalist Zeinab Badawi, said in a moving tribute on BBC Radio 4.

“It had taken just 12 days for Adil to go from a seemingly fit and capable doctor working in a busy hospital to lying in a hospital morgue.”

Tayar started self-isolating at home after developing symptoms about two weeks ago, but was taken to hospital and placed on a ventilator after his condition worsened.

Four days later medics told his family that his lungs had “come under attack” from the virus and he could no longer breathe unaided.

“Until I had learned of Adil’s death I had been fairly phlegmatic about the pandemic,” Badawi said. “But there is nothing like a death in the family to bring home the realities of what we are facing.”

Badawi learned of her cousin’s death on Thursday, three minutes before she joined millions across the UK in applauding NHS workers.

She said: “Clapping along with my neighbours engendered in me a feeling of unity that we are all in this together and that we sink or swim together.

“Perhaps this transformation will be permanent. I hope it will be.”

Former colleague Abbas Ghaznafar, a renal transplant surgeon at St George’s University in Tooting, described Tayar as a “noble human being” who was a “hard-working, dedicated surgeon”.

Dr Hisam El Khidir, another of the surgeon’s cousins, told the BBC that he suspected Tayar had caught the virus while working on frontlines.

The British ambassador to Sudan Irfan Siddiq tweeted: “Saddened to hear of Sudanese doctor Adel Altayar’s death in the UK from Covid-19.

“Health workers around the world have shown extraordinary courage. We cannot thank them enough. In this fight we must listen to their advice.”

Tayar leaves behind a wife and four children, two of whom also work as doctors in the NHS.

El Khidir told the BBC: “Adil was someone who was central to our family, who was well respected by so many people.

“Since his death on Wednesday, I have had hundreds of text messages from his colleagues and friends. He will be sorely missed.”