We are living in a time when the constant reminders of the threat of the coronavirus seem to be all encompassing; empty streets; closed signs decorating the front doors of restaurants and bars; and of course, the dreaded push notification to our phones in the evening when we are told of the number of new cases and sadly, new deaths. However, we rarely hear about the recovered cases. The Galway Advertiser spoke to Galway woman, Lynn Porter, about her experience of successfully overcoming Covid-19.
“I am much better now,” says Lynn Porter from her bedroom. The 26-year-old is counting down the minutes on her final day in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 11 days previous. “I can around the house and garden tomorrow. I can go to get crisps in the shops and not rely on my family to do everything for me. They were all there for me during the self-isolation but you don’t want to bother them because that is what you feel like you’re doing, even though you are self-isolating to protect them.”
A couple of hours earlier, Lynn who is studying commerce at NUI Galway, had posted to her Facebook page, informing family and friends that she had contracted the virus but was coming to the end of her self-isolation. She had two main goals in posting the news to social media; to thank the efforts of the doctors and nurses as well as her family and to try to offer comfort to those who were undergoing the same protocol.
“I was afraid to tell people I had it because of the whole stigma attached to the virus,” she reveals. “I was afraid of what people may think or say because we didn’t know [a lot about it]. It is awful to be sick and to go into self-isolation away from your family but it had to be done. I hope people reading this may take some comfort. I posted that I had the virus today [on Facebook] but I wasn’t sure of the reaction I would get but I have had huge support from everyone.
“One woman reached out to me who is self-isolating and she has four children. I told her it will get easier and you’re always one day closer to getting back to them and that you are doing this to make sure they are fit and healthy. And if anyone has the virus and is self-isolating, they can reach out to me if they need some moral support because it is scary and difficult to be alone.
“When I was in the hospital, it was only two others and myself being held in the ward with the virus and the staff were having to learn as they went because it is a new virus. But I have to say the nurses and doctors were amazing during the whole experience. They were so friendly. Every morning without fail they contacted me to check up on me and asked if I needed any additional support.
“The college, the dean, and the priest were incredibly supportive and checked if we needed any supplies or food. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone especially my family, who supported and helped me through this.”
‘It was like something out of a movie’
Lynn’s symptoms of the virus began as the country woke up to the strangest St Patrick’s Day in living memory, unsure of how to celebrate the national holiday. With a cold, a headache, and soreness in the eyes as well as a temperature, she decided to give the out-of-hours doctor a call. “I had a little bit of temperature so I phoned the Westdoc and I was told to take paracetamol. I did think to myself ‘Am I have been overreacting?’ because of all the stuff we have been told about symptoms, and on the Wednesday, I felt OK.”
However the next day Lynn felt the full effects of the virus and was sent to A&E as her GP feared it might have been meningitis. “On Thursday I felt awful. I had a flu and I couldn’t get out of bed. I had a temperature but no cough at all which seems to be very unusual comparing to what they say about other cases. My eyes were sore; sore neck; sore shoulders. My glands were badly swollen; they were like golfballs in my throat so I phoned my GP and she believed that I may have had meningitis so I was sent to A&E to be tested up [at University Hospital Galway (UHG )].
“They swabbed the back of my throat and the back of my nose. It was uncomfortable but not painful and only lasts a couple of seconds. Six hours later, I was told I had the coronavirus and was brought back to A&E.”
When Lynn arrived at A&E at 10pm, she was met by a nurse and security, donned in personal protective equipment, who escorted her to the hospital’s Shannon Ward to be monitored and kept in self-isolation. Once in the room, she was shown how to take her own temperature and blood pressure as nurses and doctors could not enter.
“It was something like out of a movie,” she says. “I never felt fear like it because of the unknown; not knowing how bad I could get. No one was allowed to come into the room with me because obviously they couldn’t risk becoming infected.
“I felt like a guinea pig. The doctors would knock on the door to tell me to answer my phone because they wouldn’t come in. It was scary because it is not the usual procedure you would experience if you have ever needed to stay in hospital. I had my chest x-rayed. Fortunately I didn’t need help breathing and I was allowed to go home at 5pm on the Friday.
“My mum [Laura], dropped my car off for me at the hospital and I had to drive myself home. My poor mother had to walk home because we would have been too close together in the car. When I got home my brother, Dale, and my son, Jacob, were in the sitting room. My mother was still walking back at this stage. I went straight to my room and closed the door because I had to self-isolate for the next 11 days.”
‘The time gives you a chance to reflect’
To shut yourself off from your family and the rest of the world is difficult to do at the best of times never mind being diagnosed with a notorious virus. For Lynn, she admits to struggling with the first days of self-isolation, especially with not being able to see Jacob, before deciding to utilise the time to to catch up on college work and also to reflect on life.
“The first few days of self-isolating were tough because you are alone in your room and you cannot see or talk to anyone. I would only leave my room for the toilet or the shower and every time I used the bathroom, I had to scrub everything so my family wouldn’t catch the virus. There was plenty of tears but when I started to get into a routine and and occupy myself with college work, I had plenty of assignments, it became easier.
“My son ran in a couple of times and you can imagine trying to explain to a four-year-old why he can’t see his mum. Sometimes when he popped in to say goodnight he would try to come over and give me a hug and I would have to push him away which is not normal. It is not normal that you can’t give a hug, not be affectionate. Like for any mum or parent or grandparent it would be difficult not give your child a hug so that was very tough.
“Mum would make my meals for me. Her cooking wouldn’t be the best but one of the symptoms of the virus is losing your taste, so I had no complaints about her efforts. There would be times she would say ‘I forgot the sauce’ but it didn’t matter because my taste was gone. I haven’t had any chocolate because there was no satisfaction from eating it. I was just having my three meals a day. I have lost a couple of pounds so there is an upside to everything,” she laughs.
“[But] I have come away from this experience with more positives than negatives. The time gives you a chance to reflect on what the silly things are and what is the important stuff. Before isolation there were things I felt I could improve on. I would spend time playing with my son but now I believe I should and I can have more one-on-one interaction with him. Sitting out in the garden, going for walks up and down the street, I even found that I missed cooking dinner. Anything I used to complain about seems so insignificant. I will not moan about small things anymore.”
*Interview was conducted on Monday March 30.