'My biggest fear was dying': Healthy young Cork doctor warns that Covid-19 left him 'very sick'

'My biggest fear was dying': Healthy young Cork doctor warns that Covid-19 left him 'very sick'

Dr. Ivan Hayes, Consultant Intensivist and Critical Care Director at CUH, Dr Corinna Sadlier, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Cork University Hospital and Dr. Owen O’Flynn, a 23 year old Trainee Doctor who spent time in CUH ICU as a patient with Covid-19. PIC: Gerard McCarthy

A healthy young trainee doctor who has climbed Kilimanjaro has warned young people not to take the dangers of Covid 19 lightly after he ended up in intensive care fighting for his life from Post Covid Syndrome.

Dr Owen O'Flynn (23) from Bantry, Co Cork was the youngest intern this year at Cork University Hospital (CUH). A non smoker who hardly drinks his passion is hiking and the outdoors.

He did everything necessary and appropriate to protect himself and others wearing all his PPE gear and being vigilant about hygiene.

However, it is understood that he developed Covid in March. He didn’t display any of the symptoms on the list at that time. He didn’t have a temperature or feel unwell.

He remembers his sense of smell and taste being a little off but that wasn’t a known symptom at the time.

In May, Owen became ill and had to take time off work.

He was home sick from work and his swabs for Covid-19 came back negative.

He was eventually found to be positive for the antibody.

His condition worsened and was transferred to CUH where he ended up in intensive care for a week from May 5 with extremely serious cardiac issues.

Fortunately, he never got put on a ventilator or a life support or breathing machine.

Dr Owen says his girlfriend and parents were in shock at how suddenly and comprehensively his condition deteriorated.

Owen feared that he would lose his life despite the valiant efforts of his colleagues to help him.

"I never thought I would be that sick. Two weeks previous I could have run a 5K no bother. It was very hard for me and my family. Nearly every household in Bantry was doing a novena just for me. The support really helped.

"I didn't know if I was going to get sicker or if I would have to be intubated. My biggest fear was dying.

Dr. Ivan Hayes, Consultant Intensivist and Critical Care Director at CUH, Dr Corinna Sadlier, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Cork University Hospital and Dr. Owen O’Flynn, a 23 year old Trainee Doctor who spent time in CUH ICU as a patient with Covid-19. PIC: Gerard McCarthy
Dr. Ivan Hayes, Consultant Intensivist and Critical Care Director at CUH, Dr Corinna Sadlier, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Cork University Hospital and Dr. Owen O’Flynn, a 23 year old Trainee Doctor who spent time in CUH ICU as a patient with Covid-19. PIC: Gerard McCarthy

"I had seen patients with Covid die. I had seen patients with cancer die. I have become friends with patients who had to go to a hospice. I have been exposed to death for the last five years. It is no stranger to me.

"Luckily I started to improve. I was very well minded. I was transferred down to the ward. I was still sick but I knew I was out of danger."

Dr O'Flynn said fortunately he hasn’t suffered any long-lasting damage from his post Covid episode.

He remembers walking thirty metres in hospital at one point to get an Echocardiogram. He admits he was "wiped" for two hours from the effort.

Dr Owen spent five weeks recuperating over the summer in Bantry before returning to work. He says he is more appreciative of family and friends since his shocking hospitalisation and battle for life.

"I am also more appreciative of good weather and appreciative of what we have in the moment. I am still a bit shook knowing that I could get so sick so quickly."

He is warning young people that they are not invincible.

"I got very sick very quickly. I am very lucky to be as well as I am today. Colleges are going back in the next two to three week. I want everyone to cop on. This is a marathon not a sprint.

"We are going to be living with Covid for another year realistically if not five. Until we get a vaccine and it is proven to work long term. We do have to stay the course.

"A person with Covid can go from being all right to acutely unwell in a half an hour and needing four doctors having input on their case."

Dr Owen says he was the youngest doctor in the hospital when he became ill. However, in spite of his youth and good health the virus wreaked havoc on his body.

"It really floored me. We will never know how I got it. I could have got it in the community. I could have got it in work. Neither is more likely than the other. I was always in full PPE.

"It is kind of two or three months before it hits home what happened and how lucky you were. I am getting out a bit more and have moved down to Kerry (for GP training). "

He has started hiking and is slowly returning to normal. He is spending time with his girlfriend and his family but is keeping his contacts low.

"Outside of work my only contacts are my girlfriend and my room mate who is another doctor. I am urging people to stay the course, to keep your circle small and to be conscious of what you are doing. Keep vigilant."

*Dr O'Flynn is a speaker at the National Covid Research and Scientific Meeting, a virtual conference for medical professionals and the public on the management of critically ill patients with Covid 19. The conference takes place on September 5th.

The final session will be open to the public with limited numbers via Zoom. Registration can be completed at http://bit.ly/nationalcovidconf or by emailing rwil...@coa.ie

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