A CARER whose father died of Covid-19 in a community hospital in West Cork where she works has said that a collective outpouring of kindness has helped the country get through the pandemic.
Ann O'Sullivan of Leap in West Cork lost her father Brendan O'Mahony on April 28 last.
The 83-year-old passed away at Clonakilty Community Hospital Hospital following a battle with coronavirus.
Ann had to self isolate for a fortnight following the diagnosis of her father in early April.
Fortunately, Ann did not contract the virus but she was unable to visit her father during the course of her work even though they were in the same building.
Brendan had moved into the facility after suffering a stroke the previous October.
A former baker and lorry driver he enriched the lives of his children and grandchildren.
Ann said she will be forever grateful for the immense empathy shown to her by a night sister who allowed her to visit her father just a few hours before he passed away.
"Dad was only three doors up from where I was stationed and yet I could not see him. Management made great efforts to keep us and residents safe.
"(On the day he died) I went in in full PPE gear with a mouth mask, mask over the eyes, visor, apron and gloves.
"His shoulders shrugged when I put my hands on his shoulder.
"Maybe it was the shock of hearing my voice because he hadn't heard me in three weeks. I said 'Dad you are going to a better place.'
"That morning was awful and when I came out the night sister said 'I can't even give you a hug.' Everyone misses hugs.
"It must have been awful for people (with Covid) to be in a ward and see people in PPE gear and no family members around. At the end of the day Dad took his last breath alone. But there was huge care given to him.
"A nurse told me she was with him and she said he had such a peaceful death. It was nice to know that the girls I know and work with were looking after him."
"She said to him 'You are okay Brendan. Your family loves you. Remember that.' That was a huge comfort to me.
"As has a song that Brian Dunphy wrote about his dad. I am playing it every day because the words mean so much to me."
Ann has fond memories of her second last visit with her father in a time before Covid.
They were looking out at the birds in the garden.
"I was saying 'Can you see the birds?' He had macular degeneration but he said 'I do. I do. I see them.'
"It was a beautiful sunny day. Little did I think that would be my last day sitting out with him. It was lovely to have him sitting out of the bed."
Brendan loved fishing and tending to his tomatoes in his greenhouse.
An active man who had great work friendships the stroke was difficult for him robbing him of his everyday activities.
Arising out of the pandemic Ann has been unable to see her beloved mother Mary for fear of infection.
Mary is being cared for by another family member.
Ann is counting down the days until she can hug and mind her mother rather than greeting her through a window.
She is hoping that there won’t be another surge of the virus.
"Covid is still with us (in Ireland). It hasn't gone away."
Ann is urging the public to be vigilant in relation to hand hygiene and wearing masks in the coming weeks and months.
The mother of four says the Covid 19 crisis has left its mark not only on families of the bereaved but on healthcare staff nationwide.
"There has been this air of unrealness. This feeling of 'God is this really happening?' It really changed things.
"Going in to work in your PPE. Nobody smiling or laughing. I was on duty one day and the sister called me down and said my dad had Covid.
"There is just this anxiety that is with you as you go about your work.”
Ann says she will never forget the kindness shown to her over the last few months. She urges people not to underestimate the power of such gestures.
"A friend gave me a card with 'Thinking of You' on it yesterday. Yesterday morning a friend met me and told me that we were going for a walk along the beach and going for a coffee and scone. That meant so much.
"I have brilliant friends. When I was in isolation they were bringing wine and flowers and chocolates to me.
"That meant a lot to me. People can be so kind and it can mean the world.”