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'I felt wiped out - people should stay vigilant as lockdown ends'

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Ambulance paramedic Pat Sheridan, who has now recovered from Covid-19. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ambulance paramedic Pat Sheridan, who has now recovered from Covid-19. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ambulance paramedic Pat Sheridan, who has now recovered from Covid-19. Photo: Arthur Carron

An ambulance paramedic who suffered Covid-19 with his wife and daughter has said the virus is still a serious threat.

Pat Sheridan (62) is a paramedic with the National Ambulance Service (NAS) based in Dundalk, Co Louth, and was a frontline worker dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases in the days running up to Easter.

He urged people to keep up with hand-washing and social distancing as the country prepares to start emerging from lockdown.

"We were using PPE (personal protective equipment) and followed all the protocols on infection control and ambulance hygiene," said Pat, who is still recovering weeks later.

"I was actually involved in training others in 'donning and doffing' PPE so they would know how to put it on and take it off properly.

"We have no way of knowing how Covid-19 came into our family. It could have been from being in contact with someone while in a shop, or it could have been my wife or daughter got infected. The incubation period is quite long, so who knows?"

Pat first noticed feeling unwell on the Saturday before Easter, April 11.

"I had no temperature, but I was feeling unwell and I was becoming tired," he said.

"I wasn't working over the following days, and then on Easter Monday my wife Gerardine got a high temperature, a sore throat and back pain, and I was concerned.

"She rang the doctor on April 14 and we were both swabbed and found to be positive a few days later."

Pat had already informed the NAS management of the situation and had begun isolating at home with Gerardine (62).

Shock

"Our daughter Orla works in the emergency department in Drogheda, so she was tested too. When she was diagnosed positive, she moved out of our house to isolate elsewhere," said Pat.

The next weeks were to prove a trial for Pat and Gerardine.

"It was a shock, and there were times it could scare you, especially the shortness of breath," he said.

"There was a fear factor. I actually felt good the Saturday after the diagnosis and thought I might be coming out of the sickness, but the next day I felt wiped-out with tiredness.

"The symptoms then escalated. We had bad pains in our backs and shoulders, and I had bad diarrhoea, and the tiredness was unreal.

"You could struggle down the stairs and make a cup of tea, but after getting back up the stairs you could fall back into bed and sleep for hours. We lost our sense of taste as well.

"Family and friends were dropping groceries to the door. We were taking paracetamol.

"The shortness of breath can be frightening but I was checking our oxygen levels with a little monitor and it was normal. I'd imagine that if you weren't a person with medical knowledge it could get very scary.

"The HSE were great, the NAS were great, our family, friends and neighbours were great, and that support kept us going. They were always in touch and it was a big help.

"We drank a lot of water, and walked laps around our small yard, and we would try and get a bowl of soup into us.

"Gerardine watched some TV programmes, and I watched a few movies and we did some reading. We prayed too."

A month later, Pat has not returned to work because his energy levels are still low.

"Another few days should do it, and I'm looking forward to getting back to work," he said.

The lockdown restrictions will start to be eased next week, but Pat feels everyone still needs to be cautious and keep up their regime of hand washing and social distancing.

"I think it's good that there will be a bit more leeway, and things like building can get back on track, but we need to be cautious.

"Covid-19 is an awful sickness to get, and I really feel for all those poor families who have lost someone to it," Pat said.

"I think we might have relaxed a bit on things like handwashing, but it's really important to stick with it. We're still wiping everything, and all the shops have done great work in keeping trolleys and baskets clean.

"This is still a serious pandemic," he added.