I knew I’d recover from Covid-19. But when Mam was struck down … that floored me

Irish Times journalist Glen Murphy just about coped with coronavirus. Then his mother fell ill

The Murphy family (left to right): Glen, Jackie, Jess and Robbie. Photograph: Jackie Murphy

The Murphy family (left to right): Glen, Jackie, Jess and Robbie. Photograph: Jackie Murphy

 

It’s very seldom I’ve ever gone home sick from school or work. Mostly because I always felt guilty about calling in sick, even if I genuinely needed to. This is probably why I never expected to be part of a global pandemic.

For me, symptoms of the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, first began to properly show on the morning of Sunday, March 8th. I’d spent the previous day finishing up a few jobs at the steam railway I volunteer on in Co Laois.

I planned to spend the Sunday there as well and despite the general lack of energy and aches and pains, I took the lift down with a friend of mine from my family home in Co Kildare.

It’s so rare for either of my parents to be unwell in any way, so when I got the phone call about Mam, my spine went cold

By the end of the Sunday I was feeling quite tired and ready for an early night. I stayed at home on the Sunday night before work on Monday afternoon. Even the train journey up from Kildare back to Heuston feels like a blur now, not that anything remarkable happened on board anyway.

Monday night’s shift in The Irish Times went by with just some headaches which I put down to being over-tired. On Tuesday, I was off work and spent it mostly in my room trying to sleep it off.

Aches and pains

By Wednesday morning, I was feeling awful. Weak and covered in aches and pains with a splitting headache and fever. Within a half an hour of getting to work I went home. I was by now convinced that I had picked up the virus.

My test came on the Friday of the same week. I had been expecting the doctor to be in full protective clothing but was still shocked when I saw them standing in the car park outside my apartment waiting for me. I normally prefer when my sci-fi stays on TV.

I tested positive, the result delivered to me by phone on Sunday, March 15th – a week to the day since my symptoms first began.

Then the worrying hit and hit hard. Several of my friends that I volunteer with at the railway are in their 60s at least, so my thought was that I’d passed it on to them. Thankfully, no one I worked with that weekend has shown any symptoms or tested positive for the virus.

My parents have not been so fortunate. I spent that weekend of initial symptoms at home with them in close contact. I hugged them both goodbye before going back to work. Dad developed a bit of a fever and a cough and is now fine but Mam fared worse.

Ireland’s response may not have been perfect but it’s still commendable

She became short of breath with a cough and while I was still in quarantine in my apartment, she was brought into hospital where she was tested for the virus and received a chest X-ray. This X-ray showed she had developed pneumonia. This floored me.

It’s so rare for either of my parents to be unwell in any way, so when I got the phone call about Mam, my spine went cold. It’s a completely helpless feeling. All I wanted to do was speak to her and give her a big hug but I knew I couldn’t and I knew there was nothing I could do.

Mam has since been allowed to come home from hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. She’s recovering in the comfort of her own bed. Even so, I can’t help but worry. This was my biggest fear realised.

Someone I love and care for deeply, being struck down by this unknown disease. I knew all along that if I contracted it, I’d recover. My illness was a million miles from a picnic but it was bearable for someone my age (25) with no underlying issues at all.

I know that if anything more serious had come of my mother’s condition, I would only have blamed myself. Truth be told I still do, no matter how unreasonable or hard on myself that may be. I’ve no idea where I picked it up but I never wanted to bring it home.

We will pull through this pandemic and one day, the time the world slowed down will be nothing more than a memory. We can beat this virus but we must each do our part and take our responsibility seriously.

Battling loneliness

Maintain your distance from others, work from home, don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary, call your elderly relatives and neighbours to check in on them. A simple call or text could mean the world of difference to those battling loneliness.

Even now, I see the number of cases growing with deaths continuing to increase on the continent. Our experience as a nation pales in comparison to them so far and I sincerely hope it remains this way. They are experiencing an era of almost unknown suffering as the world continues to come to grips with the Covid-19 era.

Ireland’s response may not have been perfect but it’s still commendable. Ireland answered the door when the world came knocking and it’s doing its best to close it again.

Through this pandemic there have been glimmers of humanity and progress. For example, the virus’s epicentre in China’s Hubei province has begun lifting lockdown restrictions and the Cuban doctors arriving in Italy to help with the outbreak there.

These moments show people are capable of coming together for a greater good. These moments remind us we can be kind. These moments remind us that there is hope.

My mother will recover but for now I can only sit and wait until the day I get to give her a hug again.

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