A look back at the top stories continues:

A FIRST-TIME mum who was told her baby would not survive her pregnancy gave birth to her ‘little miracle’ - 16 weeks after her waters broke (October 14, ‘Baby Mia is little miracle’). Nadia Wainwright, from St Asaph, suffered from pre-term premature rupture of the membranes which broke her waters at 20 weeks.

The 23-year-old sought support from the Little Heartbeats charity during “very dark days,” deciding: “As long as there is a heartbeat I’m fighting for my little girl.”

Nadia’s membrane resealed but continued to leak. She contracted E. coli, strep A and had early-onset sepsis at 32 weeks when doctors decided to carry out an emergency C-section, which was successful.

“She defied all odds,” Nadia exclaimed. “It was all worth it.”

How Covid shaped all our lives

AND so it all started – the streets became empty and employees were urged to work from home as Covid-19 began to spread across North Wales (March 18, ‘Virus cases keep rising’) There was one confirmed case in Conwy and two people tested positive on Anglesey. A woman in her 60s became the first person in Wales to die from coronavirus, at Wrexham Maelor Hospital the day before the Journal went to print. Public Health Wales confirmed there was 12 new positive cases for Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 136. Residents were advised to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues while Venue Cymru and Theatre Colwyn postponed their shows for the foreseeable future. GPs introduced strict rules on booking appointments and pubs and restaurants adopted robust cleaning and sanitation as they debated whether to remain open. The Welsh Government began to contact people in at-risk groups to be shielded from social contact for 12 weeks.

As we entered unprecedented times, the Journal appealed to its readership for togetherness (March 25, ‘When you’re on your own, we are there with you’). None of us had seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic before, with schools shut, parents struggling to juggle work and home life, jobs lost as businesses tried to stay afloat, while pubs, theatres and shops faced months without trade. “We know that in the worst of times, the very best in people comes to the fore and so part of the commitment we are making to you today is to shine a light on the heroes in this hour of need,” the Journal editorial said. “Together, we will defeat coronavirus and emerge from it as stronger, tighter, more resilient communities than ever before.”

While we clapped for the NHS each Thursday, some were less inclined to show their gratitude – A vandal threw a rock at a patient services manager’s car at a Rhyl doctor’s surgery amid a spike in abuse towards staff (April 1, ‘Staff juggle abuse and vandalism’).

Gwyn Hughes had been leading preparations at Clarence Medical in response to Covid-19 when he had to deal with the frightening experience. In recent weeks surgery staff had to deal with several incidents of abuse as they worked towards protecting its 16,200 patients by implementing new measures such as telephone and video consultations. Incidents included verbal abuse over the phone and face-to-face and a door was kicked by a patient. Mr Hughes said: “It is very frightening for staff.”

The effects of the pandemic spread beyond the NHS as the stakes were raised for Rhyl Football Club, which had to find £175,000 in 10 days or fold (April 8, ‘Make or break for Rhyl FC’). Its ongoing financial crisis was made worse by the postponement the JD Cymru North League, which meant the club could not afford its running costs. Three offers of investment had been put forward but were not deemed credible by the board of directors. The club, established in the 1870s, became first club to close down. A new club, CPD Y Rhyl 1897, was set up in its place to “continue the great footballing history in Rhyl”. It continues to seek funding to run the Belle Vue stadium on a permanent basis.

A temporary mortuary was proposed to serve the whole of North Wales as government leaders prepared for a potentially steep rise in deaths from coronavirus (April 15, ‘Mortuary site to cope with virus’). The industrial units on Mochdre Commerce Park in Colwyn Bay were earmarked as a “respectful and dignified holding point before funerals take place”, if hospitals and funeral directors became unable to cope with the number of Covid-19-related deaths. The proposal was made by the North Wales Local Resilience Forum, a body comprising local authorities, the Welsh Government, emergency services and BCUHB. The plan was eventually left on standby and the site has not been used.

Rhyl Journal:

Eric Edwards

In one of many stories of outstanding courage during the pandemic, a Rhyl dad with bowel cancer returned home after a three-week fight against sepsis and Covid-19 (April 29, ‘Our prayers answered’). Eric Edwards, of Rhyl, was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago and developed secondary liver cancer last year. The 75-year-old went to Glan Clwyd Hospital after experiencing shortness of breath, a high temperature and said he felt unwell. Daughter Sharron Matthews, who lives in Northampton and is a matron at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, said: “He had no visitors or TV for three weeks. He was so poorly that he could not answer the phone. We had one video call from him which a nurse arranged.” Eric, who retired eight years ago, had been receiving chemotherapy every three weeks at Glan Clwyd. “All we wanted to do was sit and hold dad’s hand to give him the strength to pull through,” Sharon added.

The owner of five care homes in Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey spoke out on the anguish of losing half the residents in a single house (May 13, ‘Emotional toll as care homes loses residents’). There were five Covid-19 cases at one of the Fairways Care households at the Tŷ Cariad Dementia Care Centre in Abergele, with four of the residents sadly dying from the virus. Fairways Care operates semi-autonomous households, meaning the outbreak was contained in just one household, however the occupancy in the affected household is down to 50 per cent. Mark Bailey, managing director of company, said: “It’s not like being in a hospital where you look after somebody for a few days. In nursing and care homes, they’re really very genuine relationships that are built.”

Two months into lockdown and the virus failed to deter dancing in the streets to mark 75 years since Victory in Europe Day (May 13, ‘VE Day celebrations’). With a little creative ingenuity and a dash of Blitz spirit, people across Denbighshire and Conwy marked the milestone anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on May 8, 1945. Among the biggest celebrations was the village of Meliden, where residents of Bryn Llys reprised their coronavirus communal activity of dancing in the street not once, but twice to the tune of wartime favourite Glenn Miller. In Rhyl, residents Helen Wheeler and Saff Choudhary of Gurnard Place earned their wings with a trip around the street in a DIY Lancaster bomber, while residents in Prestatyn in Pennant Grove created an impromptu street event during the previous evening’s Clap for Carers on Thursday. Other residents in Rhyl, Kinmel Bay, Towyn and Abergele held a host of smaller VE Day parties amongst family members.

Rhyl Journal:

SeaQuarium Rhyl was among the tourist attractions to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

The closure of buildings to prevent the spread of the virus was felt particularly at underwater attraction SeaQuarium Rhyl, which said it was “barely treading water” as it fought for it survival (May 27, ‘Tough times for attraction’). The aquarium near Rhyl Promenade had been closed to visitors since late March and had a further blow after the Welsh Government rejected calls to establish a fund to help zoos and aquariums in Wales. It had joined forces with the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay and Anglesey Sea Zoo to petition the government to re-think it decision.

In England, zoos and aquariums could apply for an animal welfare grant of up to £100,000, which would cover the aquarium’s running costs for four months. Colette Macdonald, SeaQuarium director, said: “We have some reserves and we are eating into them at the moment. We need additional support to help our business if we are not going to re-open. It is very much a worrying time.”

Rhyl Journal:

Derek and Barbara bond. Love found a way

But love found a way for a doting couple who married at their Prestatyn home (June 3, ‘The bride and Zoom!’).

As churches were closed to wedding ceremonies, Derek Bond, 69, and Barbara, 80, were able to have their fairy tale wedding in their garden on May 31 after being granted a special marriage licence by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. About 50 guests tuned in via Zoom to watch the couple exchange their vows. The service was conducted by Reverend David Ash. Barbara’s son Michael walked Barbara down the aisle, daughter Hilary read a prayer and daughter Jane acted as ring bearer. The couple, who met three years earlier on a Voel Coaches trip, were permitted to have an officiant priest and legal witnesses as Barbara had terminal cancer and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year. She was a long-term member of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Prestatyn. “We were very excited of course and nervous,” Barbara said. “It went like clockwork and we didn’t have to do a thing. They have been so generous and so loving, my church.”

Music lovers were less certain about their prospects as K-Fest’s plans to turn Rhyl back into a “showman’s town” had to wait another year – and they needed the community’s help to do it (June 17, ‘K-Fest needs you!’). Co-founders Kareem Ghani and John Marchbank made the “devastating” decision to postpone the three-day festival, which expected to attract thousands of people to the Events Arena. It had secured former Happy Mondays member Bez, Brit pop band Cast and Welsh rappers Goldie Looking Chain as headliners. In a statement following the cancellation, Mr Ghani wrote: “We’ve been waiting to see how things go with the current pandemic - however, after working with the local authority K-Fest can no longer go ahead as planned. This is devastating news for us all, as we understand were looking forward to this year’s festival as we were.”

The council-appointed arms-length leisure firm Denbighshire Leisure Ltd was projected to lose almost £4m because of the pandemic (July 8, ‘£7.3m shortfall for leisure attractions’). Denbighshire County Council heard a report from cabinet member for finance Cllr Julian Thompson-Hill on the authority’s balance sheet, with net projected losses this year of £7.3m. It had received money from Welsh Government for increased expenditure during the pandemic but not all expenses were covered. Cllr Thompson-Hill said the biggest loss of income was from Denbighshire Leisure Ltd, which manages council facilities such as SC2, Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre, Prestatyn Nova Centre and leisure centres.

After schools returned after the summer break, hundreds of Rhyl pupils were told to self-isolate as the number of confirmed Covid cases continued to rise in Denbighshire October 7, ‘More than 300 isolate in Rhyl’). About 240 year nine pupils at Rhyl High School and 240 pupils at Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph had to follow social isolation rules. About 90 pupils at Ysgol Llywelyn also had to self-isolate, as well as 22 pupils at Christ the Word Catholic School.