20 Feb 2024

“Legends never die and Mum was our legend”

Jeya Poinasamy was the strong heart of her family. Jeya and her husband, Bala had come to the UK in the 1970s from Mauritius. She’d spent 40 years working for the same company, TransGlobal, as an accounts manager, and raised her two sons Darren and Krisnah. Jeya had never before been hospitalised for an illness when in November 2019 she developed a cold that wouldn’t go away. 

Jeya Poinsamy and son Darren

“She was always full of life and just kept on going, but she became really ill and tired,” says Darren, 46, who lives in Fleet, Hampshire, and is now CEO of Phoenix Asset Group after a previous career as a Director in the Medical Communications industry. “It was all very rapid. As well as the cold she had pains in her legs. But repeated trips to the GP failed to diagnose her. They said the cold would just go away, and that she might have varicose veins. Tragically she never saw someone in primary care who was able to connect the dots between all the symptoms. I found out afterwards that she had been sleeping at her desk every lunchtime at work. It was very extreme and unlike her to be so tired. But nothing triggered the all-important blood test from the GP.”  

Eventually in January 2020, Jeya collapsed at home in Egham, Surrey. Darren, who was working abroad, received a call from his father to say she’d been taken to hospital. Jeya was given a blood test which found her white blood cells were abnormal. Further tests revealed the devastating news she had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). 

“The news about the diagnosis was very hard to process,” said Darren. “Fortunately she ended up in the right place at Hammersmith Hospital, as they really knew what they were doing. They immediately started treatment. I was incredibly impressed with their knowledge and level of care. Mum was 67 at the time and they ruled out a stem cell transplant as she would not have been strong enough to endure the procedure. But they put together a package of chemotherapy for her and she began treatment.” 

Throughout the next five months Jeya would be periodically sent home in between rounds of chemotherapy, which after the initial sessions were carried out at her local hospital, St Peter’s in Chertsey. 

“We had occasional glimmers of hope, but she never really improved,” remembers Darren. “She would come home and then have to go back in because she kept getting infections. Mum always had such a young face – when I was about 18 people used to think she was my sister! But she aged ten years overnight once she was diagnosed and underwent treatment.”

Jeya Poinasamy with her grandchildren

Sadly Covid lockdowns had by that time begun and Jeya’s husband, Bala along with Darren and Krisnah could only drop Jeya off at the hospital and speak to her on the phone, rather than spending all the time with her that they wanted to. 

In August 2020, Jeya developed an internal infection and needed an operation. Sadly, she passed away during the operation on the 24 August at the age of 67. 

“Mum had had enough by then and signed the DNR, which was very hard to take but you never expect to go in for an operation and not come out OK,” said Darren. “It felt like it was all over very quickly. She had been told she had six months to live – she had told me this and asked me not to tell my Dad which was very hard. Unfortunately, from diagnosis Mum did only live another six months. Mum was very upset with the news because she wanted to live another ten years to see her grandchildren grow up.

“My eldest son, Diego, was five years old when we lost her and at the time I don’t think I appreciated how badly he took it, I was so caught up in my own feelings. Mum missed my daughter, Caprice, our third child and her first granddaughter, being born by just two months. We all still talk about Mum a lot – her love for cooking, finding a bargain whilst shopping and all round taking care of the whole family. 

“Mum had never been ill in her life for any long period of time and beyond giving birth to Krisnah and I, had never spent any time in hospital before. Dad had a heart attack about 25 years ago and we’d always focused on him. It all happened so fast. I wish there was better awareness and education amongst primary care physicians so that adding up two or three symptoms would automatically trigger a blood test or take the conversation further. And an emphasis on the care of the patient and understanding how they are feeling emotionally. Mum was the first big mortality in our family. My cousins and us are a close family and all meet up regularly through the year. But it still feels strange three years on that she is not there when we get together. But I always say heroes get remembered but legends never die and Mum was our legend.” 

Jeya Poinasamy in her garden

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