NHS Lothian academic took her own life after the trauma of being hospitalised for Covid

An academic took her own life after the trauma of being hospitalised for Covid left her with serious mental health problems.

By Sarah Ward
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 6:10 pm

Professor Fiona Denison, 51, an honorary consultant obstetrician at NHS Lothian, died on Saturday, days after an operation that she hoped would improve her health was postponed due to her contracting Covid for the second time.

Mum-of-two Fiona won awards for research into reproductive medicine which was described as having "changed health outcomes for mothers and babies here in Scotland and beyond".

She was described as a "charming, gentle and caring" doctor, who created a mirror to help with water births, and worked to prevent stillbirths with peers in Uganda.

Dr Fiona Denison pictured in 2013.

Fiona, who was also professor of translational obstetrics at the University of Edinburgh, became seriously unwell with Covid in March 2020, suffering respiratory complications and breathing difficulties.

She was admitted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and treated in isolation for several days but the experience left her with flashbacks and anxiety.

She was diagnosed with acute stress disorder which then became severe depression, which she had not suffered from previously, and medication to treat the depression led to digestive problems which she was due to have surgery for.

Grieving husband Gordon Taylor said Fiona would have wanted the full circumstances of her death to be known, so that others might learn from her experience.

Gordon said: "Ultimately, she was diagnosed as a suicide risk and admitted to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in summer 2020.

"It was during her treatment there that she discovered the therapeutic benefits of art which blossomed into the beautiful paintings with which she delighted friends and family.

"Her condition improved and she was able to return home but Covid took another toll on her health by exacerbating a pre-existing condition she had with her digestive system which was also impacted by the medication she was taking to help with her depression.

"If Fiona's story is able to shine another light on the critical importance of mental health and, through this, help others, then she would feel that a fitting legacy alongside the huge contribution she made through her clinical and medical research roles.”

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Gordon added: "Being re-admitted to hospital was traumatic as it brought back all the memories of struggling to breathe while in isolation."

Fiona suffered a further blow after developing Covid again over Christmas, which caused her surgery related to her digestive complaint to be cancelled.

Gordon said: "She had been steeling herself for the operation given the traumatic memories a return to the hospital environment held for her but was also hopeful that this would be a positive step forwards.

"As Fiona expressed to friends and family, 'It seems I never catch a break'.

"Although, outwardly, she appeared to be coping with this latest of many setbacks, Fiona took her own life on Saturday evening."

He added: "Ultimately, it seems the combined toll Covid took on both her mental and physical health proved too much to bear.

Prof Denison leaves behind her loving husband, sons James and David, and a "wonderfully supportive legion of wider family, friends and colleagues who are heartbroken by her loss and will love and miss her always".

Donations in memory of Professor Fiona Denison may be made to the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, to donate visit https://www.justgiving.com/lhbef