As the first Briton known to have coronavirus, Connor Reed did a lot to educate us about the then mysterious disease.
He gave our first glimpse into the worst symptoms through an impressive diary published in the Mail. And he relived the & # 39; alleluia & # 39; moment as he began to recover after 24 hellish days of feeling close to death.
The young English teacher, who was forcibly locked in his Wuhan apartment for 16 weeks, became a familiar face on television, broadcasting video reports from the epicenter of the nascent pandemic.
Among the millions who heard his haunted broadcasts with a mixture of pride and concern were his Welsh parents, Rod and Hayley Reed, who now reside in Australia.
Connor Reed (pictured), the first UK citizen believed to have developed coronavirus late last year, was found dead in his Bangor University dormitory on October 25
The now infamous Huanan wet market in Wuhan, where many believe the virus originated
The Bangor University dormitories in North Wales where Connor was found dead
On Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. Reed, along with younger sons Morgan, 17, and Oliver, 8, gathered around a screen 10,000 miles away in Brisbane. This time to see Connor's funeral.
Two weeks ago, after appearing to have recovered fully from the virus, the 26-year-old was found mysteriously dead in his Bangor University dorm, where he had recently started studying Chinese and linguistics.
Prevented by the travel embargo from making the 24-hour trip to Wales, his parents and siblings could only follow the moving service through a live feed from the Colwyn Bay Crematorium.
"You would think we felt separated from Connor because we were so far away, but I didn't feel that way at all," his father told me in an exclusive interview after the 30-minute service.
“It was just nice that we could at least see him. After that we had a glass of wine and talked about all the incredible things he has done in his life. & # 39;
Now the most urgent command of the family is to find out how Connor found his death.
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday, October 25th, Connor's roommate found him collapsed on the floor of his bedroom. The reason for his untimely death is still unknown.
Almost a year had passed since he became seriously ill with the virus while taking English class in Wuhan, and he appeared to be fit.
Despite being forced to study online instead of attending lectures, Reed said Connor was in an "upbeat" mood and was enjoying his course, which began in September.
Connor Reed pictured with his mother Hayley
Connor Reed is believed to be the first British man to be infected with coronavirus
Everything indicated that he had rediscovered the irrepressible zest for life he remembered at Thursday's funeral.
Connor's father is well aware that when a young man dies suddenly and the police say that “there are no suspicious circumstances”, that euphemistic phrase always indicates that he has committed suicide.
Indeed, the 55-year-old carpenter was trained as a volunteer for an Australian relief group for construction workers with emotional problems to identify the hazard signs.
After keeping in close contact with Connor over the past few weeks and calling him two days before his death, he said nothing suspected his son that his son was having problems.
There are also no obvious indications: no note, no empty medicine bottles or instruments; No external physical injuries. "I can see why people might think it's suicide, but I can't see it," he says.
He said the people in his dormitory were nice (he shared them with three others on campus) and he made friends. He was happy.
“I never knew he was using drugs, and that's certainly the first thing they'd look for, but they didn't tell us they found any.
At first the police thought he fell off a chair in his bedroom (he hit his head on the floor) but the university doesn't say so.
& # 39; An autopsy was done because we received a report from the coroner that said it was inconclusive.
Connor with his mother
Connor wrote for the Daily Mail in November describing his symptoms, initially attributing the illness to a bad flu
“The only thing they said of interest was that they did more tests, but it could be up to 12 weeks before we know anything.
"I thought it might be Covid-related, but then I thought there was some tell-tale sign – a cough or something." He pauses briefly to calm himself down and adds, "We may never know the truth – but we have to try to find it."
To find some kind of peace, of course, they must.
What became of this articulate, personable young man after the first wave of Covid subsided and he disappeared from the spotlight, and could his story provide any clues?
His parents came from a large family in North Wales and moved to Hertfordshire before emigrating to Australia's Gold Coast at age 12.
At his funeral, members of his family testified to his youthful exuberance and thirst for adventure.
Connor was determined to wrestle every drop of excitement out of life and was never meant to follow his father into the construction industry.
He forever dreamed of getting rich quick, and his father said his plan was to make millions out of an unspecified Anglo-Chinese company after graduating from Bangor.
After graduating from high school, he worked briefly as a salesman in an electronics store in Brisbane, but in his early twenties he returned to the UK to live with relatives in England.
Then one day he called his father and announced without warning that he was moving to China to learn Mandarin. & # 39; Are you crazy? & # 39; Mr. Reed asked. But his son was serious.
Connor spent three years in the Far East and traveled through Malaysia and other Chinese cities before settling in Wuhan, where he was amazed by the colorful street ambience and the warmth of the local people.
Perhaps fatefully, he enjoyed shopping at the city's bustling fish market with his bats and other wild animals, from where the virus may have first spread to humans.
But then, on November 25th last year, everything changed. In his diary he described the three different stages of his illness.
It started with cold symptoms, which disappeared after five days with the help of some hot swirls of honey and whiskey. returned to cause sore bones and fever; Then on the twelfth day, he struck with all his might, narrowing his lungs so badly that he feared he might choke.
Meanwhile, his pet kitten, a British blue named Dusk, suddenly fell ill and died.
At the local hospital, doctors diagnosed pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics, but Connor feared they might weaken his immune system and so did not take them.
After 24 days, he felt fine again.
Life in Wuhan had been normal during his illness. It is unclear whether the Chinese authorities already knew that Covid-19 existed at this point in time.
Connor went to the hospital after developing a chest infection but recovered from the illness
Worryingly, however, Communist Party officials ordered everyone to stay home 37 days after Connor's first illness – a fact he recorded in his diary.
Another 15 days passed before he was officially informed that he was infected with the "Wuhan Coronavirus". When he shared the scary news with friends on Facebook, it quickly spread.
In early March, three weeks before Boris Johnson announced our first lockdown, Connor warned millions of Britons – through this newspaper and television interviews – of the misery that lay ahead of anyone who became infected.
However, Connor was cautious about criticizing his host country and always described China's handling of the pandemic positively.
Perhaps he sincerely believed that they had reacted immediately and that their draconian lockdown – which allowed only one person in a household to venture outside the home for essential supplies for a short time every three days – was justified.
His father thinks so. For the same reason, he says, "You don't" dissolve "China if you live there. He was believed to be the face of the coronavirus in the UK at the time, and he had some profile.
“His media work gave him something to do with his time during his lockdown, but in the end he wouldn't do anything because he was worried about what the Chinese government might think. He was careful not to rub them the wrong way. & # 39;
At Connor's funeral, his family also emphasized the hardship he had suffered during those 16 weeks while he was locked alone in his Wuhan apartment.
“The people of China have to do as they are told. There are no exceptions. We don't know what happens to those who don't do what they're told, ”Service Humanist Minister Richard Butler told the mourners.
In total, he added, Connor spent 20 weeks alone in lockdown. This included quarantine in Australia, where he spent the summer with his family, and another 14-day quarantine after arriving in the UK in September.
Nevertheless, he "coped well with it," the mourners were told.
But did he? After his long weeks of isolation, his return trip from China to Australia turned into an exhausting and costly marathon.
Because his visa had expired, the Chinese authorities delayed his transfer from Hong Kong for three days. Several airlines refused to carry him and some of the flights he had booked on have been canceled with no refunds.
When he finally got to Brisbane, he and his father spent their time renovating a house that Mr. Reed had bought and stayed there at night amid the dust and rubble.
"I don't want it to be all about 'poor Connor' because we had a great time he was here," says Mr. Reed.
Connor decided that he needed academic qualifications to prove his fluency in Mandarin and unsuccessfully applied to several Chinese universities to study. This could have something to do with the deteriorating trade relations between China and Australia, his father suspects.
So when he was offered a place in Bangor, he took the opportunity.
He was back on the road in September, flying almost 24 hours to Manchester and then by road to North Wales.
His father is now wondering whether the long flight – possibly made worse by an ongoing coronavirus complication – could have harmed his son's health.
"I don't think it has anything to do with Covid, but you never know," he says.
The theory seems worth considering. A study published in August by researchers at Imperial College London found that the coronavirus commonly causes blood clots in the lungs.
And Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King & # 39; s College London, told the Mail that victims of "Long Covid" – the effects of which are now emerging – could potentially die from thrombosis or blood clots months after an apparent recovery.
This week, however, North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones, who is investigating Connor's death, told the Mail that he was exploring "other avenues" and believes he was close to confirming the cause of death.
"Blood clots in major organs are routinely checked post mortem," he said.
With Covid, blood clots remain in the lungs without exception.
“I'm looking at other ways, but I don't want to tell you my theory in case it turns out to be unfounded. We think we know what happened, but I have to prove it.
"I'm waiting for the results to come back from the lab and I hope that will explain everything."
He declined to disclose the nature of these tests, but is believed to be awaiting a toxicological report.
If so, this seems to indicate some form of overdose, albeit possibly accidentally.
Whatever the truth, Mr. Reed repeats that his exuberant, beloved son will be remembered as "a happy child and a happy adult."
"It's just sad that we won't see how his life would have turned out after so many adventures at a young age," he says stoically.
He's also rightly proud that Connor expanded people's knowledge in the early days of the pandemic through his courageous and lyrical broadcasts.
'Whenever we miss him, all we have to do is put his name in Google and he will be there. Connor will be on the internet forever; It has its place in history, ”he says.
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