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Nurse manager soldiered on the frontline until 38 weeks' pregnant


Safe arrival: Caroline and Padraic Cunningham with their new son Aiden. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

Safe arrival: Caroline and Padraic Cunningham with their new son Aiden. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

Safe arrival: Caroline and Padraic Cunningham with their new son Aiden. Photo: Shelley Corcoran

Caroline Cunningham says her first pregnancy was "really good... I couldn't really complain". But by the time she was 38 weeks she was facing the possibility of giving birth during a pandemic, without her husband, all while still working on the frontline as a clinical nurse manager at Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Ms Cunningham, who is this week's Frontline Star of the Week, was eight weeks' pregnant when her husband Padraic left to serve as a sergeant for the Defence Forces in Lebanon. He had been due back home in April, but this was delayed twice because of Covid-19.

The couple's first baby was due on June 24. Padraic made it home on June 22 - just in time for the birth of baby Aiden hours later.

"Padraic touched down on Irish soil on Monday morning, and I went into labour on Monday afternoon," Ms Cunningham said.

Padraic is only 37, but has already served in the Defence Forces for 20 years.

"I'm 12 years being an army wife and you know what you're getting into. They're away a lot," she added.

She said it had been a "huge relief" that Padraic got back in time, but he couldn't be in the delivery room because he was quarantining at home - which was "a bit tough".

"Knowing that he'd be home when I got home made it all the better," she said.

Now three weeks old, baby Aiden is "the pup off Padraic".

"He has a big head of black hair, I didn't get a look-in," Ms Cunningham said.

She has worked at Temple Street Children's Hospital for 11 years. For the last six years, she has been making the four-hour round trip between Dublin and Longford.

She previously took the train, but when Covid-19 hit she started to drive to minimise the risk while she was pregnant. She continued working on the frontline until she was 38 weeks' pregnant.

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"We were as protected as we could be, but I suppose every day you went out with a risk regardless of whether you were a healthcare worker or pregnant," she said.

"Anybody that was working frontline that was pregnant was concerned. Work did their best to avoid putting pregnant people near confirmed cases.

"You're working in a hugely female-dominated environment, there's going to be a lot of pregnant ladies. Pandemic or not, these kids still needed their care needs attended to."

The Cunninghams were nominated by their friend, Natasha Kennedy.

Natasha said that the "power couple" were "a true inspiration, focusing on the best in every situation and selflessly giving of themselves for the betterment of our country".

Ms Cunningham said she and her husband were just "glass-half-full people".

"Padraic has served on six different peacekeeping missions... I think we're both very grateful for the life that we have, and when you have this little baby in your arms you just think, 'Yep, this is what it's all about,'" Ms Cunningham said.

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