Heartbreak after flowers laid in memory of dentist who died with Covid are removed by council

The partner of a much-loved dental surgeon who died after contracting coronavirus said he was left “heartbroken” when the council removed floral tributes laid outside the practice in her memory.

Dr Grazyna Pawlak had travelled to Poland for an operation on her shoulder in July, but ended up staying longer than anticipated to care for her elderly mother.

She had been due to return home to Prestatyn last month, but was unable to fly back due to covid restrictions.

The 69-year-old, who worked at My Dentist on Prestatyn High Street for 14 years, contracted coronavirus and passed away with breathing difficulties last week.

Her devastated partner Kev Thomas arranged for a small memorial to take place outside the practice, where her colleagues laid bunches of flowers on a nearby bench to pay their respects.



June Carter Cash et al. posing for the camera: Dr Grazyna Pawlak with partner Kev Thomas


© Kev Thomas
Dr Grazyna Pawlak with partner Kev Thomas

But they were removed on Tuesday by Denbighshire Council, who have since apologised for the “error” and pledged to replace them.

Kev, who lives on Anglesey said: “It broke my heart. I wanted to do something nice to pay tribute to Grazyna.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out the council had removed the flowers. I was devastated, as were Grazyna’s colleagues.

“She was very highly thought of in the town and people just wanted to pay their respects as she’d worked in the practice for 14 years and had over 6,000 patients.

“It’s hard enough losing your partner, especially at this time of year, but not being able to go to her funeral and then having this happen too just set me back.”



a vase of flowers sitting on a bench: Floral tributes were laid outside the dental practice in Prestatyn


© Kev Thomas
Floral tributes were laid outside the dental practice in Prestatyn

Kev said he and Grazyna would video call each other every night since she left for Poland, but her health went downhill while she cared for her 94-year-old mother, who also caught coronavirus but recovered.

Sadly, Grazyna, who had one daughter and two grandchildren, died on November 25.

Kev described his partner of three years as someone who would “go out of her way for anyone” and “always put others first”.

She had been a dentist for over over 40 years, spending the first 28 years of her career in the city of Wroclaw.

Tributes have been paid to Grazyna on social media from members of the Prestatyn community.

One said: “Such a tragedy, lovely lady.”

Another wrote: “Very sorry for a big loss.”

One added: “May she rest now, lovely lady will be missed.”

One of Grazyna’s patients said: “Aw no, so sad she was my dentist, she was starting to teach me Polish. Love to all her friends and family.”

A Denbighshire Council spokesman said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Mr Thomas and all those affected.

“The flowers were removed in error.

“The council has spoken to Mr Thomas and apologised for the removal.

“A letter of apology will be written to staff at the dental practice and the council will replace the

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40 Dead, Now 40 Laid Off: Inside a Nursing Home in Crisis

When the state closed down swimming pools, his job at Clove Lakes became the couple’s only source of income. Staying home was no longer an option.

“When I came back, the supervisors and directors were staying in the home all night, and asking anyone to take extra shifts. Usually I don’t do that, but I volunteered because I knew that was going to happen anyway.” At home, he feared carrying the virus to his girlfriend’s mother and aunt, who lived in the same house, so he would strip his clothes and put them in the washer every time he returned.

At Clove Lakes, the virus shut down all of their ordinary activities, changing the relationships between the workers and the residents. The administration worked to get masks, gowns and other protective equipment, which many homes lacked. “We were wearing hazmat suits,” Mr. McArthur said, adding that it felt like being in a sauna. “I lost a lot of pounds. So I didn’t catch the quarantine weight like everybody else did.”

The emotional stress was unrelenting, he said. Once employees reported to the Covid unit, they could not leave or see other colleagues until the day’s end. Residents, especially those with dementia, often did not understand why their relatives were not visiting, why they could not leave their rooms and be with their neighbors for meals or activities.

“The worst was when you had to tell them they had to go back in their room, because the resident in the next room passed away, and you have to put them in a body bag,” Mr. McArthur said.

“One day you’ll see an ambulette come in and haul someone out and they’ll never come back,” Mr. McArthur said. “It is the worst experience to have.” Each death took a toll on the staff, but there was no time to grieve, he said. “You develop chemistry with someone, and it’s like they’re part of the family or a close friend. And we are all they have sometimes, especially after they stopped having visitors.”

The home did not provide counselors to help the staff deal with stress, but directed them to a hotline set up by the state office of mental health, Ms. Senk, the administrator, said.

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