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'Virus killed our dad, and now we fear for our mum too', says grieving son

Couple married for 50 years and living in same nursing home both struck by Covid-19


John and Nell McGroddy both contracted the coronavirus in the nursing home where they lived

John and Nell McGroddy both contracted the coronavirus in the nursing home where they lived

John and Nell McGroddy both contracted the coronavirus in the nursing home where they lived

A heartbroken son who lost his father to Covid-19 has described his fears for his mother, who is also battling the killer virus after contracting it in the same nursing home.

John and Nell McGroddy tested positive for the coronavirus within days of each other.

Mr McGroddy (82) died on Sunday and his wife 79-year-old wife of 50 years is still being treated.

The couple's adult children watched from behind glass while their mother wore a mask and gloves to say goodbye to her husband.


"My mother was taken in by nurses to see my father one last time after he died," Dominic McGroddy, the couple's eldest son, told the Herald.

"My sisters could only watch from behind a glass window while she held his hand.

"She's so sick with the virus herself that we aren't sure she knew he was gone. Maybe that's a good thing."

Mr McGroddy, a former garda, passed away peacefully at the nursing home in Swords.

Due to restrictions on visitors at the home he had been living in for three years, his family were unable to be by his bedside. Mrs McGroddy was told on Monday that he had died.

"On Sunday they told my mother that dad was very sick," said Dominic.

"He had already died, but they were trying to set her up for seeing him.

"When they brought her in to see him on Monday, her temperature was still up and down and she was on meds.

"She was struggling to show any acknowledgment that she knew what was going on - 'utterly bewildered' were the words that were used.

"She was brought in to see him, masked and gowned and all of that, and it was just all very confusing for her.

"That was very heartbreaking for my sisters, that no one could support her.

"The nurses were there and they were fantastic, but my sisters were on the outside looking in at that.

"In the end, it was just a very isolated affair."

The McGroddy family, who are from Swords, were notified of a potential case of corona- virus in the nursing home several weeks ago.

On March 16, they were informed that their mother had a high temperature and would be tested for Covid-19 the follow- ing day.

She tested positive, as did her husband a few days later.

"Once we heard mum had it, we weren't surprised that dad then got it," said Dominic, who added that his parents and others who had the virus were isolated from the other residents in the home.

"None of the family got in anywhere past the front door to see either of them," he said.

"I have an underlying health condition and couldn't go, so it was mostly my sisters.


"It was a case of standing outside and shouting in through a window. Everyone inside was masked and gloved and gowned.

"It must be an awful experience. All these staff are going around like it's a war zone with everything they have on."

Unable to visit his parents, Dominic made recordings of their favourite songs, which were played to the couple by nursing home staff.

He was also able to speak to his father via a video call.

"We have no criticism of the staff at the nursing home at all," he said. "They were informative every step of the way with this. As soon as they suspected the virus was in the nursing home, they let my sisters, who are the first point of contact, know.

"They did a very good job in isolating the risk patients from the rest of them and they put all the protocols in place straight away.

"I video-chatted to my dad, and the staff were great at trying to get him alert to my voice and to tune in.

"They were just unbeliev- able, and it's hard to believe that they are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis.

"They were replaying the songs I recorded, the music dad listened to all his life, and they were sitting with him at the end.

"We as a family take comfort from that."

Dominic said the family were told there are more than a dozen positive cases of Covid-19 in the nursing home, but only their father has died.

"We were looking at the stats saying 80 to 90pc survive it, but we were concerned because dad was becoming frailer," he said.

"We knew our mother was in a healthier position. On March 24, we were told dad's temperature was down and they were both eating, so that gave us some hope to think they were coming out the other end of it.

"The staff were very worried about both of them for a while, and then on March 26, things just started to take a turn for the worse for dad and he just never came back from it."

Like others who have succumbed to Covid-19, Mr McGroddy's funeral will be a small, private affair.

His wife will not be there.

"My dad was a hugely popular man," said Dominic.


"He told us many times how much he was looking forward to the celebration of his life after he passed away.

"He had a wide circle of friends, ex-guards, people he played golf with, business- people around Dublin and Swords that he would have wanted to celebrate his life.

"Singing songs and telling tales, that's what he wanted.

"Over the next few days, we go with masks and gloves and have a very informal, very unpleasant ceremony.

"It will just be the five of us and a few other family members."

As the family bury their father, their focus is on willing their mother back to health.

"We remain convinced our mother will be fine, but we can't be sure," said Dominic.

The nursing home did not comment on the number of cases it is dealing with.

However, in a statement, the team extended its deepest sympathies to the McGroddy family, saying: "We appreciate the family's supportive comments about our nurses, carers and all the staff, who are working tirelessly to look after all the residents during this very difficult time."