A young doctor who became acutely ill after he was infected with Covid-19 has pleaded with young people not to underestimate the virus.
Dr Owen O'Flynn (23), a fitness fanatic who played three sports, spent almost a week in intensive care in the hospital where he had been working.
He is one of the keynote speakers at a special webinar event on Saturday for Irish intensive care unit staff organised by the National Covid-19 Research Group.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint. This virus is going to be with us for some time so it is vital that people follow the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe," he said.
The doctor, who hails from Bantry in west Cork, played GAA with his local club, Bantry Blues, and two years ago climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with colleagues of the Surgeon Noonan Society.
Despite being fit and with no underlying health conditions, he fell gravely ill in May and ended up in the intensive care unit at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
"I was really fit, I played three different sports up until my final year in university. I lived almost directly across the road from CUH but the virus left me so sick I could hardly walk to the hospital," he said.
Dr O'Flynn graduated in 2019 and found himself on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19.
He initially felt ill with aches, pains, nausea and extreme fatigue. On the May bank holiday weekend, he felt so ill he was taken into CUH.
He was in a virus monitoring room for two days before his condition suddenly deteriorated and he had to be rushed to the ICU.
"They were the scariest days of my life," he said. "I was young, I was fit and I had no underlying health conditions, yet I was acutely ill."
Thanks to the expert care of CUH doctors, he rallied and was transferred back to a virus monitoring room after six days.
While in ICU, he was placed on a high-flow, pressurised oxygen system but, thankfully, recovered sufficiently that he did not have to be intubated.
On May 15, he was allowed return to his Bantry home, where he was cared for his by family for several weeks.
"I was still very weak - even trying to walk around my own house left me totally breathless," he said.
The virus left the young doctor with a respiratory problem and cardiac complications. Now, he wants everyone - especially young people - to appreciate the virus can't be underestimated.
"My message is that people should please, please follow the guidelines. I have just two contacts outside of work - and that is the way it should be for people.
"This virus is going to be with us for a long time, most likely another year. Everyone needs to follow guidelines."
The webinar is hosted by the Intensive Care Society of Ireland, the Joint Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine of Ireland and the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland.