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virus fight Father Brian D'arcy on Covid-19 battle: 'I fell out of bed and never woke up, I couldn’t recall people’s names'

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Fr Brian contracted Covid despite taking all the necessary precautions

Fr Brian contracted Covid despite taking all the necessary precautions

Fr Brian contracted Covid despite taking all the necessary precautions

I caught the Covid virus despite taking every effort to stay safe. When it's rampant in the community it's hard to avoid it. Be warned. Be careful.

Someone I was in the same room with -properly socially distancing I should add - tested positive. I had no symptoms. I was feeling a bit off but I'd just had the anti-flu injection - I always have a mild reaction to it for a day or two. However, I was advised to be on the safe side and get a test because the symptoms could be masked.

I was utterly shocked though when, 20 hours later, the text pinged on my phone to say I'd tested positive with instructions to immediately isolate for ten days.

An email arrived at the same time telling me where I could get more information about Covid - I'm in Northern Ireland and it's the NHS I deal with. Different rules apply in the Republic. It is confusing.

I put my positive result on the special app for Northern Ireland and I made a list of the few people I might have come in contact with. I personally contacted each of them; some of them had already been warned by their own app.

That evening I was shocked by how anxious I became. I have underlying conditions and I'm no longer as young as I think I am. But it knocked me for six.

I was still feeling OK two days later; I relaxed; Covid isn't as bad as they say it is, I thought. Then it struck.

I noticed a terrible taste in my mouth - which three weeks later I still have. I had pains in joints. One night I noticed my toes were discoloured - that really put the wind up me.

I found it impossible to sleep because when I lay down I couldn't stop coughing. Then when I did sleep I couldn't wake.

I slept through the alarm every morning and when I did wake I just couldn't get out of bed. Covid flattened me in a manner I never experienced before.

Comatose

One night I found it impossible to get to sleep. At 2am I was twisting and turning trying to find a comfortable position to ease the coughing. But I must have drifted off, because when I woke up I was lying face down on the floor of my room having tumbled out of bed.

I was freezing and when I came to it was 4.30am. So at some point I rolled out of my single bed, fell at least two feet on to the floor and did not even wake.

I still don't understand how it happened. It's frightening to be so out-of-control comatose.

From working with the sick over the past six months I am aware that a serious bout of Covid-19 is highly dangerous, maybe fatal.

I know how difficult it is to predict what effects it will have. As the week progressed I was feeling awful but knew that it was still a mild attack and one that could be controlled with time.

So I was grateful that I had a mild case of Covid - I'd hate to have a serious bout.

I was able to get through it without going to hospital. There were times when I feared I was heading in that direction.

It is a unique experience for me to be totally isolated. It was worse, though, to experience such a total lack of energy, to be so thoroughly debilitated and listless. I lost interest in the non-Covid world and quite frankly had no interest in news, sport, music or even politics.

Thankfully, I was still able to pray, but not in the usual ways. I was happy just to sit in silence for hours on end, simply letting thoughts come and go.

Unusually, I did not pray for healing for myself, even though I was praying for other intentions and other families in the same situation.

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Brian is glad to be able to tell his story

Brian is glad to be able to tell his story

Brian is glad to be able to tell his story

I found passive prayer to be consoling - it filled me with a peaceful, easy feeling and it sustained my hope.

I wasn't interested in taking phone calls and, besides, my memory just upped and left me. I found it impossible to think of words, peoples' names, or even to whom I was talking. It took me twice as long to work my way through an article for the Sunday World or a script for the BBC.

I got up each day and did as much as I could while living in my over-crowded room well away from everyone.

At night I became lonely and very vulnerable. Being imprisoned in a room is not my style.

I wasn't depressed but I was in a bad mood. I wanted to go for walks, yet most days I hadn't the energy.

I became obsessed about protecting others from me, yet struggled to convince myself that I wasn't going mad and that I would get better.

Covid-19 is a strange virus which takes control of your life. No one knows how to treat it or when we might burst free of its effects - no one can predict when it will end or what permanent effects it might have.

We are resigned to living with it yet we have no idea how to do that and survive. Covid, even mild Covid, takes away the freedom to be normal, to be human, to be hugged or to be touched.

I didn't want anyone to know I'd caught the virus, irrational as that is. Which is why I was annoyed when Pope Francis made his wonderful remarks about civil unions.

TV and radio stations in Britain and here wanted an instant comment from me, spelling out the practical implications of his advice. I had to refuse them all and admit I had caught Covid. My mind was not clear enough to broadcast.

Thankfully, they accepted my explanation and respected my privacy.

I had seven days of total helplessness - it was a humbling experience which I have not quite come to terms with. I am still fearful, anxious, impatient and worried about the lasting implications of such an invasive virus.

I know I am not infectious, yet I am guilty and uneasy around others. I actually found myself apologising to colleagues for coughing on a Zoom call.

I continue to worry about my lifestyle, I think too much about end-of-life issues. I am not as morbid as I was and I am getting over Covid, but there is a lingering helplessness, hopelessness, listlessness that I do not understand and cannot cope with.

But let me end with a positive note. My most significant feeling now is total gratitude. I am overcome with this deep sense of graciousness. Here I am telling you about a mild case of Covid.

Sunday World


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