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'I've no one - without heroic pat to deliver my medicine, I'd be lost'

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Pat Ryan chats with Rita Beggs from Balbutcher Lane in Ballymun after delivering her medication

Pat Ryan chats with Rita Beggs from Balbutcher Lane in Ballymun after delivering her medication

Pat Ryan with Edward McManus of McManus’s Pharmacy

Pat Ryan with Edward McManus of McManus’s Pharmacy

Alice Smith in Cairncourt

Alice Smith in Cairncourt

Pat Ryan chats with Kathleen Smith after he delivered her medication to her home at Marewood

Pat Ryan chats with Kathleen Smith after he delivered her medication to her home at Marewood

Donal Byrne in his flat at Sandyhill Gardens in Ballymun after Pat made his delivery from McManus Pharmacy

Donal Byrne in his flat at Sandyhill Gardens in Ballymun after Pat made his delivery from McManus Pharmacy

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Pat Ryan chats with Rita Beggs from Balbutcher Lane in Ballymun after delivering her medication

In north Dublin, Pat Ryan and his small Fiat van have been delivering medicines - and a dose of good cheer - to some of the local residents who are unable to leave their home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was hired as a driver by pharmacist Edward McManus four years ago after one of the pharmacy staff saw an old man struggling to carry home a box of his medicine.

Demand for the service has increased during the Covid-19 crisis, and Pat now makes up to 70 deliveries a day.

Edward McManus is the third generation to run his family's pharmacy in Ballymun, which was founded by his namesake grandfather in 1919.

Edward said he was worried about the over-70s who are still coming in, and hoped that the delivery service will keep them at home.

"Some older people, unfortunately, try to sneak out," he said with a smile.

"While local doctors can limit the numbers of people coming in, we can't. Nor would we seek to. It really is the front line."

Edward said Pat gets on great with the customers.

"It costs nothing to be nice," Pat said. "This could be all they have that day."

Pat's first delivery is in Marewood Crescent.

Party

Donal Byrne, who introduced himself as Don, said that he hadn't seen anyone in four days and had been "climbing the walls".

"I was looking forward to Pat coming so I'd get a few minutes' chat," he said.

"Now the paper is here too. It's a party. I'm only sorry I can't offer you a cup of tea."

Don, who is 60, has stage-3 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleeps with an oxygen mask.

Speaking to the Herald from a safe distance, Don apologised for losing his breath as he raved about Pat and the pharmacy.

"He is a hero," Don said, gesturing towards Pat. "Ah, stop. I'd be lost without him.

"I am terrified, I am petrified. I've no family, I've no one. My carer is sick at the moment, so I really have no-one. But I've someone from the corporation who rings me every day, and Edward rings me every Tuesday.

"Pat will always have a little chat and ask if I need anything, they are absolutely brilliant."

Don used to be homeless, and lived in Santry Lodge hostel for a long time. When he first heard he was being offered housing in Ballymun, he initially thought it "wasn't ideal".

But since he moved here, he said he's "never met people as nice as the local people" and now he wouldn't move.

Neighbours he doesn't even know keep shouting in the window to ask if he needs anything. The only problem is his flat is on the first floor, and stairs are hard for him.

As Pat handed over Don's medicine, Don handed him back a big envelope with a card for the pharmacy staff inside.

When the lockdown started, Edward offered to collect Don's social welfare payments from the Post Office for him.

Edward almost chased him out of the pharmacy when he saw Don trying to come in to get more gloves, insisting that Pat would deliver anything he needed - big or small.

"Like, that'll tell ya. Where would you get it?" Don said.

Near Don's flat is Marewood Court, a housing development for older people.

Kathleen Smith (81) has lived there for 11 years. Pat has his own fob to get into the building.

"This is one of my secret girlfriends," Pat said, when Kathleen answered the door.

Kathleen fractured her spine a few years ago, and then hurt her arm in a fall down an escalator so she needed help getting her medicine delivered even before the Covid-19 crisis.

"He's nice, he is," she said, nodding at Pat. "I always offer him a cup of tea, but he doesn't take it. I'm mad for talking."

She's a bit nonplussed about the pandemic. "What's the point in worrying?" she said.

Her grandson Daniel set up her TV so that Kathleen could use voice-activation to play Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole on YouTube, to keep her entertained.

"Alexa, can you get me George Michael?" she said.

Kathleen said she'd phoned her grandson in triumph when she first got Alexa to work.

In winter when it's dark in the evenings, Pat would always phone customers like Kathleen to let them know he's on the way so that they don't worry about who is at the door.

Walking into the Cairn Court housing estate, Pat picked up his phone. "Alice? It's Pat here with your medicine. OK, honey."

"It's my young fella I get most of the medicine for," Alice McDonald (75) said.

Darren, her youngest son, is 46 years old and is paraplegic.

He suffered a complication in 2011 and was recovering well, but last month he experienced complications again and "took a turn for the worse.

"He's coming back again now, he kind of talks to us with his eyes - we can ask him if he's in pain and he can blink twice for yes," she said.

Alice looks after him full time. Darren suffers from a lot of complex conditions and sometimes Alice would need to collect a trolley-load of medicine for him. With Covid-19, she now can't go out either.

"So I wouldn't be able to get down anyway for the medication myself, so this is absolutely fantastic.

"It's absolutely brilliant. It's essential, really. I swear by it."

Knitting

At his final stop Pat pulled up outside a house in Sandyhill Gardens. He knocked on the door before stepping way back. Rita Beggs (66) answers.

"Pat!" she said, and then retreated back into the house. "Hang on till I get my mask."

She got the masks for free from Edward, which she appreciates because another pharmacy is charging €3.50 per mask.

"How are you getting on, Rita?" Pat said.

"Oh, fed up. I'm knitting, baking, painting and eating," Rita said, adding that she's taken up knitting little hats for the premature babies at the Rotunda Hospital.

"And the house has been cleaned twice over."

Rita is cocooning. Late last year, she suffered kidney failure. Thankfully, her son Nicholas was coming back home to visit at the time. He found her unconscious on the floor.

When she'd been in the pharmacy, Edward had told her that her feet looked very swollen and it might be her kidneys.

"He's as good as a doctor. I should have listened," she said.

"This is a great man, a very good man." She was pointing at Pat. "He's a hard worker, and working even harder now with this.

"It's all bad things that they hear all the time about around here.

"People don't realise how good people are here."