Professor left scarred by Covid-19 warns public against complacency

Louise Crowley caught disease in hospital after a fall and spent months battling effects

Prof Louise Crowley: ‘I remember going off in the ambulance and I told my 10-year-old son that mummy would be home in a few days. It was 50 days before we saw each other again.’

Prof Louise Crowley: ‘I remember going off in the ambulance and I told my 10-year-old son that mummy would be home in a few days. It was 50 days before we saw each other again.’

 

A University College Cork academic who spent more than a month in hospital battling Covid-19 and was on oxygen constantly for three months afterwards, has urged the public not to become complacent about the impact of the disease.

Prof Louise Crowley, who was diagnosed with Lupus in 1993 when aged 17, started working from home as soon as the pandemic hit, making every effort to protect herself from infection. However, the mother of three fell in her home in Bishopstown, Cork, on November 4th and broke her pelvis in two places.

She was taken to Cork University Hospital and placed in an orthopaedic ward, where she acquired Covid-19, testing positive on November 18th.

Just a day earlier, she received an email confirming her promotion to the rank of professor, realising a life-long dream that she was unable to celebrate.

High-dependency unit

“I got very, very sick – vomiting and feverish. On the 19th I had my last shower for about a month. It was the last time I could physically do it. I was taken to the high-dependency unit. I was okay for two days and then I was brought down to what we call the ‘goldfish bowl’,” Prof Crowley said.

“It was a special care sealed room. I was in that room until December 10th. I couldn’t get out of the bed. I couldn’t use the toilet facilities. I ended up with pneumonia in both lungs and a collapsed lung. I couldn’t eat for a couple of weeks. ”

Prof Crowley paid tribute to the medical team that cared for her, but the road to recovery was difficult; she at one point had a burst in her oesophagus.

The Covid-19 experience also involved a serious emotional burden, separating her from her husband and children for 50 days. She did not tell the children, aged between 10 and 15, that she had the disease as she did not want them to worry.

“I remember going off in the ambulance and I told my 10-year-old son that Mummy would be home in a few days. It was 50 days before we saw each other again,” she says.

“When I was well enough I would take off the mask and do five minutes of FaceTime where I was ‘great’. I would tell them I was getting better. Some mornings, when my husband was doing the school run, they would ring for a chat and I would pull the conversation out of somewhere. There were times when I couldn’t even answer the phone.”

Complicated process

When she was released from hospital on December 23rd, Prof Crowley was placed on oxygen for 24 hours a day for three months as she tried to convalesce, a process complicated by the impact the virus had on her body.

“To this day I have scarred lungs and I am breathless on the stairs. Sometimes I walk out on to my drive and I have to stop and lean up against the wall.”

While she resumed remote working in May and appreciates the desire many have for life to return to what it was before March 2020, Prof Crowley says there is no normal when the virus and its variant remain prevalent.

“There is a sense among a lot of people, and not unreasonably, that the worst of Covid is gone. That is not how I see it,” she says.

“The experience of having Covid may end but long Covid is another challenge people are facing. People recover on one level, but they don’t fully recover.”