An ambulance paramedic who suffered Covid-19 with his wife and daughter has said the virus is still a serious threat to health and urged people to keep up with hand washing and social distancing as the country prepares to start emerging from lockdown.
Pat Sheridan (62) is a paramedic with the National Ambulance Service (NAS), based in Dundalk, Co Louth, and was on the front line dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases in the days running up to Easter.
"We were using PPE and followed all the protocols on infection control and ambulance hygiene. 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," said Pat, who is still recovering weeks after infection.
"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?" he said.
"Just because I'm a frontline worker doesn't mean I got it that way."
Pat first began feeling unwell on the Saturday before Easter, April 11, and in the following days his wife Gerardine became ill too. They both tested positive.
Pat had already informed NAS management of the situation and had begun isolating at home with Gerardine.
"Our daughter Orla (30) works in the emergency department in Drogheda, so she was tested too during contact tracing, and she was diagnosed positive too and she moved out of our house to isolate elsewhere," said Pat.
"It was a shock, and there were times it could scare you, especially the shortness of breath.
"There was a fear factor. We had bad pains in our backs and shoulders, and I had bad diarrhoea, and the tiredness was unreal, you couldn't describe it," he added.
"Family and friends were dropping groceries to the door, and we were taking paracetamol.
"The shortness of breath can be frightening.
"The HSE was great, the NAS was great, our family, friends and neighbours were great, and that support kept us going.
"We drank a lot of water, and did walking laps around our small yard, and we would try to get a bowl of soup into us even though we couldn't taste it.
"Gerardine would watch some TV programmes she likes, and I watched a few movies and we did some reading. We prayed too."
Even now, a month later, Pat has not returned to work because his energy levels are still low and he suffers from tiredness.
The lockdown restrictions will start to be eased next week, but Pat feels that 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," he added.
"I think we might have relaxed a bit on things like hand washing, but it's really important to stick with it."