GERRY RYAN’S former partner Melanie Verwoerd has revealed her coronavirus ordeal after only recently getting back on her feet having contracted the killer disease.
Melanie has declined to take part in RTÉ’s special documentary to mark ten years since the death of the legendary 2FM DJ, which will be aired tonight.
The former South African ambassador to Ireland is now back living in Cape Town with her children, who also contracted COVID-19.
Her 29-year-old daughter Wilme was the first to suffer from severe symptoms and Melanie (53) and her son Wian (27) soon fell ill too.
“In our case, my daughter was very, very ill,” she recalls.
“She had a very high fever for along time and then a bad cough and tight chest. She got all the classic symptoms of COVID-19. We started with symptoms you are not hearing about. We all started with diarrhoea, and then our taste and smells disappeared.”
She added: “My son and I, unlike my daughter, did not have a high fever. In fact, no fever at all. We just had a really bad sore throat and a bad head cold.”
A week later their chests began to feel tighter and she has urged people to keep to social distancing.
“We self-isolated the moment we got sick but we were worried about others we had been in contact with. People must not go into panic mode,” she added.
She described the past few weeks as being “tough” and that her daughter suffered most, initially getting a fever of over 39 degree centigrade.
“We are still exhausted and every day has its ups and downs, but it is getting a bit easier,” she stresses.
Melanie said she was delighted to finally get out of quarantine.
“Whilst reflecting on how to survive the next few weeks, someone forwarded me an email that a Irish teacher in Wuhan had written after seven weeks of lockdown in the epicentre of the outbreak,” she discloses.
“I found her advice very moving. She said: ‘1. Accept that you have no control over the situation. Let go of any thoughts of trying to plan too much for the next month or two. Things change so fast. Don’t be angry and annoyed at the system. Anxiety goes down, and you make the best of the situation – whatever that might be for you. Accept that this is what it is and things will get easier.
“2. Try not to listen to/read/watch too much media. It WILL drive you crazy. There is such a thing as too much!
“3. The sense of community I have felt during this time is incredible. I could choose who I wanted to spend my energy on – who I wanted to call, message and connect with and found the quality of my relationships has improved.
“4. Appreciate this enforced downtime. When do you ever have time like this? I will miss it when we go back to the fast paced speed of the “real world”.
“5. Time goes fast. I still haven’t picked up the ukulele I planned to learn, and there are box set TV shows I haven’t watched yet.
“6. You learn to appreciate the little things; sunshine through the window, flowers blossoming and being able to enjoy a coffee in a cafe. To those just beginning this journey: you will get through it. Listen to what you are told, follow the rules and look out for each other. There is light at the end of the tunnel.’”
She adds: “I agree with her: There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel. The only question is how long this tunnel will be in South Africa. That will depend on how cooperative we all are in the next three weeks.”
There have been 79 deaths and 4,220 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in South Africa, which has a population of 58 million.
This Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of Gerry’s death, which shocked the nation. It was Melanie who found the 53-year-old’s body at his Upper Leeson Street apartment in Dublin after she became worried she had not heard from him in several hours.
He had been out the night before with friends and worryingly missed his 2FM radio show the following morning.
An inquest found that cocaine was a contributory factor in his heart-attack induced death.
Melanie started dating Gerry several months after he split in 2008 from his wife of 26 years Morah, the mother of his five children.
After her stint here as ambassador the South African was then appointed as executive ambassador of UNICEF Ireland.
She was fired from her job in 2011, with the board citing the media attention following the death of Ryan as the reason – she issued unfair dismissal proceedings and the case was settled out of court.
Melanie had earlier released her memoir, ‘When We Dance’, about her relationship with Gerry and his family were left reeling when she claimed in it that she snuck a lock of her hair into his coffin.
The former ANC MP later moved back to South Africa in 2013.
She did not respond to phone calls and emails from the Sunday World this weekend, nor replied to WhatsApp messages about her coronavirus diagnosis and why she did not take part in tonight’s show.
A RTÉ spokesperson said that several friends and family members were approached to take part in tonight’s in-house produced documentary, ‘Gerry Ryan – A Legacy’.
“Melanie has been approached but she is not interested in commenting at this time,” said a spokesperson.
Among those who take part tonight will be his brother Mano Ryan, and friends, broadcasters Dave Fanning and Joe Duffy, businessman Harry Crosbie and writer Fiona Looney.
Also taking part is Gerry’s daughter Lottie, the 2FM DJ who recently won ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
“Ten years is an absolute milestone anniversary – it’s strange to think it’s been that long,” says Lottie on tonight’s programme.
“As time goes by I become more and more aware of all my dad achieved in his life and I could not be prouder of him.
“I suppose where I work I am constantly surrounded by him.I’m in the studio where he broadcast every day and I’m with many of his colleagues who are now my colleagues. They often share stories and I feel very lucky to hear these things often.”