Woman who lost partner to Covid pleads with public to be vigilant

Woman who lost partner to Covid pleads with public to be vigilant

Pictured are Eileen Finucane and her partner, Seamus O’Connor who passed away earlier this year. Seamus owned Kitty O Se's in Kinsale and Killarney. 

A woman who spoke with her partner in intensive care over the telephone 90 minutes before he passed away, has urged the public to stay the course with Covid-19 having seen first hand the devastation it causes.

Eileen Finucane from Killarney spoke to her partner Seamus O'Connor, who was in Cork University Hospital battling the virus, on the afternoon of the 7th of April.

The 59-year-old had come off a ventilator and the couple had had a few chats over the phone in the days preceding his death.

The outgoing and vibrant Seamus owned Kitty O Se's in Kinsale and Killarney. 

A hard worker with an outgoing personality, he was a talented singer who embraced life.

Eileen said that she was shocked when Seamus contracted Covid-19 as he was "all about hand sanitiser" right from the start.

They had closed their pub in Kinsale and restaurant in Killarney on March 17th, arising out of the Covid restrictions.

Seamus developed a headache on March 23rd. It persisted for a few days. As Seamus had the underlying condition of Diabetes 2 he decided to contact his doctor.

His doctor referred him for a Covid test. 

Seamus became more weak but didn't have obvious Covid symptoms like shortness of breath.

He felt well enough to drive to Dunmanway for his test accompanied by Eileen. 

His main problem was tiredness.

His condition deteriorated as they awaited results, and on March 31st, Eileen drove him to hospital as he was coughing and very weak.

When Eileen brought her partner to the hospital in Cork she never for a second thought she wouldn't see him again.

"I went to the door and I had to leave him at the door. He had a mask on and I had a mask on and I gave him a kiss.

"I got a call from a doctor in A and E two hours later to say he was very poorly. I stayed (in the carpark) and about eight hours later they called me. They said he was seriously ill.

"He texted me because there was no keeping Seamus off his phone! He said he was on oxygen. He said breathing was hard."

Doctors called the following day and said that the father of four needed to go on a ventilator.

She said the staff at CUH were "fantastic" and told her to phone whenever she wanted. 

Doctors also called her daily with updates.

The news became more positive and a few days later Seamus came off the ventilator. 

He started breathing unassisted.

Seamus started texting her from intensive care. He said he was tired but better. He called her and they had some "banter". 

"It was just great to hear his voice again. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my phone and saw that it was him calling. We had a laugh and a joke. I spoke to him again on the Monday night and his voice was stronger. He was asking about the business."

He sent her a picture of himself all spruced up after a shower. He had a parting in his hair and Eileen jokingly texted back "shoot that nurse" as it wasn't a flattering style.

On one occasion Eileen went into the restaurant in Killarney. 

Knowing lockdown was going to go on for much longer than anticipated she needed to throw out jars of food. She told Seamus of her plan.

Seamus had a reputation for always looking at the security cameras on his phone.

He sent Eileen a screenshot of her sitting in the restaurant having a coffee with a co-worker.

She decided he was definitely "back to normal" when he was monitoring the cameras and joking around.

Eileen spoke to Seamus at 3pm on the day he died. He said he was weak but a "bit better."

"I told him to have a sleep and I would talk to him later. He said his shortness of breath was back a bit and they had put a bit of oxygen on him. I wasn't alarmed. I told him I would call at 6pm.” 

She was ‘full of the joys of spring’ thinking he was on the road to recovery.

"At ten to four my phone rang. It was a Cork number. It was a nurse. She said to get on the road from Killarney to Cork as Seamus had had a bad turn. I said 'this is trouble.' I got in the car (with a friend) and he put his foot down to get to Cork.

"At 4.25pm we were outside Macroom and the phone went with a Cork number. I said 'pull in he is dead.'

"The consultant phoned me and at twenty-nine minutes past four they told me he had died. They took him down for a CT scan because they were treating him for clots. It happened then.

"I couldn't even get back in the car for 45 minutes. The (hospital staff) told me to turn back because I couldn't go in the hospital.

"At one point when he was sick I thought he was going to go. Then I had him back and he was recovering. I was lucky to have the days where I was able to talk to him."

Eileen said she was devastated because she and his loved ones had every expectation that he would pull through.

She is back working in their restaurant in Killarney and she also commutes to the pub in Kinsale.

She says being busy is helping her as she grieves because she has to put a face on for the people you meet.

Kitty O'Se's in Kinsale is a big music bar and Eileen hopes to have a musical celebration of his life on site when the restrictions lift.

Eileen said Seamus had "great get up and go". 

A Kerry GAA supporter they attended matches together and were happily planning for the future.

Ms Finucane believes we have to have some sort of normality in the hospitality trade.

However, she is urging the public to stay vigilant knowing how quickly and suddenly her beloved partner was taken from her by the virus.

"Myself and all my staff are wearing their masks and visors. Seamus was always washing his hands and hand sanitising. We just don't know where he got it.

"People can't be careful enough. Especially if you have an underlying condition. If someone was careful it was Seamus. He had his hands washed away. I would say to people to please stay vigilant."

Seamus developed a rapport with doctors and a consultant who treated him even visited Eileen for a long chat about his case. He had promised 'half of the ICU' a good night out in his restaurants when he recovered.

Eileen is very grateful for the efforts of the medical staff. She traveled to Cork to be at the start line for the ICU4U cycle last week, which involved medics making the journey to Dublin by bike for charity.

Eileen has urged people to donate to the cause.

"They saw he was a bit of a character. Of course he told them 'get me better and I will give you a night out.' They had a lot of banter with him.

"It was so comforting to meet the team who treated him. They did their best for Seamus but it wasn't to be."

Donations can be made at https://www.icu4u.ie/

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