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'43 days of my life are gone, but I am one of the lucky ones' - taxi man Tim in six-week coma

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Tim O'Leary is back at home with wife Valerie after several weeks on a ventilator

Tim O'Leary is back at home with wife Valerie after several weeks on a ventilator

Tim O'Leary is back at home with wife Valerie after several weeks on a ventilator

A Dublin man who spent six weeks on a ventilator has returned home after winning a battle for his life with Covid-19.

When 64-year-old taxi driver Tim O'Leary woke up from an induced coma after 43 days, he had no idea how drastically Ireland - and the world - had changed.

After contracting coronavirus and whooping pneumonia at the end of March, he was taken by ambulance to Blanchardstown Hospital.

The following day, March 30, he was transferred to Tullamore Hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator and put in an induced coma.

Mr O'Leary, from Blanchardstown, said he has no recollection of the toughest part of his battle with the virus, and after "losing several weeks", he was shocked by how the virus had taken hold in Ireland.

Recollection

"I remember walking down our drive to get into the ambulance and I remember nothing until I got back into the regular ward 45 days later," he told the Herald.

"Not a thing do I remember about it. I have no recollection - 43 days are gone out of my life.

"I didn't even know I was in Tullamore.

"My family took all the mental toll because I wasn't aware what was going on. They were, but I was in a coma."

Mr O'Leary said there were times when he was in recovery after leaving intensive care when he was not sure if he could continue with his battle.

"I'm absolutely shocked with everything that happened. I was one of the lucky ones that survived," he said.

"I said to God one night, 'Take me if you want, I've had enough', but he didn't want me yet, so I'm one of the lucky ones.

"I can't say enough about Tullamore and the staff there.

"The physios had to pull me back a few times. They'll always be in my mind."

Mr O'Leary spent 30 days recuperating in Tullamore before he was eventually able to return home on Friday.

His wife, Valerie, said the hospital staff were "unbelievable", helping her and the couple's two sons, Aiden (33) and Timothy (35), to talk to Mr O'Leary on the phone while he was in a coma.

The staff, she said, asked for information about the family so they could also talk to him about them while they were unable to visit the hospital.

Ms O'Leary said that while on the phone to her husband, she continually told him he had to pull through so he could see the two grandchildren both his sons are expecting this summer.

"We were so worried," she said. "Tim's doctor down there is a marvellous man, and I told him we wanted complete honesty. A few weeks in, we were wondering would he ever come off the ventilator, was this the end of the line?

"We had the conversation about if Tim hit rock bottom, and we agreed he should throw the kitchen sink at him.

"It reached the stage in mid-April when he had reached that point, and the doctor said that if this doesn't work, I'm going to be ringing you to come down, he wouldn't have made it.

"I couldn't go down while he was in ICU, and that was awful, but the staff were absolutely wonderful.

"They would put the phone to Tim's ear and we could all chat to him.

"Most time, they would see a reaction, his head would move towards the phone.

Retire

"We were just reminding him of all the good things he had to come back to - the grandkids and maybe retiring now, all of the things any parent looks forwards to. I would just tell him he has to pull through.

"Tim is a great Dublin GAA man and he had battles out on the pitch, so we knew he would battle through this as well."

Mr O'Leary has been told he will make a full recovery, but it could take up to a year.

He said he will have to retire from his role as manager of the St Brigid's junior hurling team, and is considering giving up his taxi licence.

He feels he may have picked up the virus from Italian passengers he picked up who were in Dublin for the cancelled rugby international.

"I was very lucky," he said. "I'm going to take every opportunity in life from now on."