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My lung transplant was the ultimate preparation for surviving Covid-19

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SURVIVOR: Gerry Redican. Photo: Domnick Walsh

SURVIVOR: Gerry Redican. Photo: Domnick Walsh

SURVIVOR: Gerry Redican. Photo: Domnick Walsh

A man with a transplanted lung has revealed how he was determined to survive Covid-19 to honour the life of his donor after catching the virus.

Gerry Redican was getting used to living with his lung transplant two years on from the operation when his worst fears were realised with a positive test result for coronavirus in March, less than three weeks after the first case was recorded in Ireland.

The Roscommon man, who worked as a head chef in the Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee before his transplant in 2018, was also living with diabetes and a heart condition.

When reports of the respiratory pandemic started to filter through in February, the 62-year-old was on high alert, only leaving the house for essential errands as he was on immuno-suppressant drugs to ensure his body didn't reject his transplanted lung.

But after 79 days, he has recovered from the virus which has taken the lives of nearly 600,000 people around the globe.

"I suppose the lung transplant was the ultimate preparation," he says from his home in Tralee. "Life is life. It's a discovery to realise you have such a zest or a fight for life in a way. You draw on that strength, on that experience. The sad part is that your donor and your donor's family made that decision to give you a lung at the hardest time of their life."

He is grateful to the staff who took care of him in Cork University Hospital during his six-week stint in an isolation room while he was being treated for Covid-19.

"I had a few scary nights. The medics told me someone was smiling down on me. I had a bacterial infection in one lung, a viral infection in the other and my kidneys were failing. I was 79 days from start to finish."

He was diagnosed after displaying symptoms of a tickly cough and smelling burning food, and transferred to Cork University Hospital because of his condition.

"I had only been out twice that week on errands. I would have been concerned as all respiratory patients [were]."

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A few years ago he was diagnosed with life-limiting Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease which scars the lungs. He was told he would need a transplant to survive.

While his single lung transplant had left him vulnerable to Covid-19, it also gave him a steely determination while fighting the coronavirus.

"I always hold the view that there is no point panicking. I trusted in the science that they were doing the best they possibly could...

"I was very lucky, I was in an isolated room and I didn't have to be intubated because I managed to keep breathing.

"I was on oxygen to help me breathe and my lungs have been damaged by Covid. Hopefully, with the pulmonary rehab programme I am on at the moment, it will improve.

"When you wake up after the transplant, you open up your eyes and the first thing you ask is 'Am I alive or dead because the room is very bright'. It takes a second for you to say, 'Oh I'm still alive'.

"Your mouth is full of tubes, it's frightening but you don't care, you're alive."

Books kept him going during the long days fighting the virus without visitors. "I am a voracious reader. I didn't turn on the news."

Gerry is backing a campaign by Irish Lung Fibrosis Association to get a defined patient pathway for respiratory patients to ensure they are diagnosed quickly.

While he believes the Irish public have taken the virus threat seriously, he urged people not to "drop their guard."

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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