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'The coughing was so bad it felt like I was drowning' - coronavirus survivor who spent 16 days in a coma

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Niall Murphy pictured as he left ICU

Niall Murphy pictured as he left ICU

Niall Murphy with his mum Brigid after leaving Antrim Area Hospital, where he was treated for Covid-19

Niall Murphy with his mum Brigid after leaving Antrim Area Hospital, where he was treated for Covid-19

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Niall Murphy pictured as he left ICU

PROMINENT human rights lawyer Niall Murphy has told how he spent 16 days in a coma with coronavirus and was given just a 50 per cent chance of surviving.

Mr Murphy is thankfully now recovering at his Belfast home with his family and has told of his four week battle with Covid-19, which included coughing fits so severe that he felt like he was drowning.

The father-of-three said he first noticed symptoms when he came home from a work trip to New York last month.

He arrived home on March 13 and the following evening he began to feel weak when sitting down to eat his dinner - by the next morning he knew "something was wrong".

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Niall Murphy with his mum Brigid after leaving Antrim Area Hospital, where he was treated for Covid-19

Niall Murphy with his mum Brigid after leaving Antrim Area Hospital, where he was treated for Covid-19

Niall Murphy with his mum Brigid after leaving Antrim Area Hospital, where he was treated for Covid-19

With a temperature over 40C, he was bed ridden for 12 days, and followed the then-official advice in Northern Ireland by self isolating.


Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland today, he explained that he felt he could "ride it out" but by March 25 Mr Murphy "completely crashed off the edge of the cliff" and had to be admitted to hospital, where he was immediately put on a ventilator, and later in a reduced coma.

"The coughing bouts - they're just indescribable," he recalled.

"I just felt it was drowning. I couldn't breathe. It was just something I've never experienced before and I had another coughing bout that was the worst so I said 'this isn't right.

"I could see the nurse's face when she put the oxygen level tester on and I was admitted immediately. After about about an hour and a half I was on a ventilator."

Now back with his wife Marie and their three children, aged 12, 11 and 7, Mr Murphy said that he is "one of the lucky ones and very conscious of that people aren't making it."

He acknowledged the strain the devastating virus also put on his loved ones.

"I was amazingly inspired by confidence from the second that I was wade through the doors of the hospital.

"She (Marie) benefited from exceptional communication the hospital - it couldn't have been better - daily updates, all questions answered and they were honest.

"There was one night she was told that it was 50/50 whether I'd make it through, which is the worst news anyone wants to receive. So she bore a much heavier burden than I did.

"All I can remember from those very early days of when I was weaning off (induced coma) was just nurses holding my hand, saying 'you're better, and this is great, look how well you're looking' and I just cannot be thankful enough for the genuine personal, and of course professional, care that I received."

After being taken out of his coma, Mr Murphy had a period of recovery where one of his tasks was to take three steps to a chair.

He was "practically spoon fed for those days in recovery as he said "taking those three steps felt like running a marathon".

Now three days at home, the Antrim man is beginning to return to health and has been ensured that he will recover fully and coronavirus won't have any long-lasting affect on his health.

Online Editors


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