Cork mum diagnosed with coronavirus on her birthday; 'I feel like my lungs are filling up'

Cork mum diagnosed with coronavirus on her birthday; 'I feel like my lungs are filling up'
Mum Antoinette O'Meara, who has been struck down with Covid-19

A CORK mother who was diagnosed with Covid-19 on her birthday has revealed how a charity helped her to provide for her family while she was trapped indoors.

Antoinette O’Meara, who lives in Dublin Hill, is self-isolating with her daughters, Leah, 16, Jessica, 14, Jenna, 9, and niece, Katie, 18, who also lives with her.

After hearing of Antoinette’s diagnosis, her cousin, Elga Holbrook, wanted to support. She got the community involved and sought the advice of soup-kitchen charity, Cork Penny Dinners.

Community activist Ms Holbrook worked alongside Cork Penny Dinners volunteer coordinator, Caitriona Twomey, to ensure the family were supported while they were self-isolating.

Ms O’Meara had not appealed for help, but said the support was very touching.

“People didn’t want to even come into my garden, because of Covid-19,” she said. 

“I would never have reached out to Penny Dinners myself, but they had everything delivered before I had even thought of what I needed.”

The gesture led her to reflect on the importance of such organisations.

Penny Dinners Cork volunteers Tomas Kalinauskas (nearest) along with Conor Flynn, Don O'Sullivan and Dave Feeney were among the group packing food hampers for individuals and families.Picture Denis Minihane.
Penny Dinners Cork volunteers Tomas Kalinauskas (nearest) along with Conor Flynn, Don O'Sullivan and Dave Feeney were among the group packing food hampers for individuals and families.Picture Denis Minihane.

“There are people out there who rely on Penny Dinners to eat every day,” Ms O’Meara said. 

“Luckily, we’re not among those people, but it’s good to know that there is someone there who will come to your rescue, when you’re in trouble.

“I was aware of Caitriona Twomey before this. She is a brilliant woman, who does brilliant work. We want to thank her and let her know how grateful we are.”

Ms O’Meara was stunned by the charity’s thoughtfulness. 

“There was no list given, but everything that I needed was in that box, from shampoo to washing-up liquid,” she said.

“I never depend on people, but it was nice to receive it and know that there was someone thinking of us.”

Ms O’Meara will never forget the day she received her test results. 

“I tested positive for Covid-19 on April 13, which also happens to be the day of my birthday.”

Her daughters and niece still did everything they could to make her birthday special. 

“I came downstairs to find the table decorated with a cake, balloons, and everything you would have at a birthday party. 

"They brought a tear to my eye. That was one birthday I’ll always remember,” Ms O’Meara said.

Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families.Picture Denis Minihane.
Penny Dinners Cork volunteers packing food hampers for individuals and families.Picture Denis Minihane.

The Dublin Hill woman said she had not been taken aback by the positive result, given her relentless symptoms.

“I was getting spinning headaches and muscle pain in my fingers. I was good for a week, but then I developed pains in my lungs. The virus started in my throat and gradually spread to my lungs. I’d never felt like this before in my life,” Ms O’Meara said.

“I got to the stage where I rang the doctor and said, ‘I can’t breathe’.

“He was doing breathing exercises with me over the phone, just to get me through it. 

"I had to sleep with the window open every night.”

She said the virus has been in her system much longer than was initially predicted.

“There are times when I feel like my lungs are filling up,” Ms O’Meara said.

“Sometimes, I don’t think I can catch my breath and that’s a frightening feeling.

“However, I can’t take steroids, after being told that it will aggravate my lungs. It was supposed to be out of my system by now, but it’s still happening.

“This is in people’s systems much longer than we realise,” Ms O’Meara said

Glen Rovers Camogie Club Foodbank in Aid of Cork Penny Dinners, Cork City.A foodbank organised by Glen Rovers Camogie Club for Cork Penny Dinners was a huge success this weekend. Spirits were high amongst the Glen Rovers players and coaches, Cork City Community First Responders and members of An Gardai Siochana 
Glen Rovers Camogie Club Foodbank in Aid of Cork Penny Dinners, Cork City.A foodbank organised by Glen Rovers Camogie Club for Cork Penny Dinners was a huge success this weekend. Spirits were high amongst the Glen Rovers players and coaches, Cork City Community First Responders and members of An Gardai Siochana 

She pleaded with the public to take travel restrictions and social distancing seriously.

“There are people out there who aren’t taking this seriously,” Ms O’Meara said.

“They think this is a joke. My message to them is that this is not like a flu.

“I’ve had flu before and it comes nowhere close. This is something I can feel right through my ribs and back.

“I don’t know what it will feel like for my lungs to be normal again.”

She warned people not to let their guard down in relation to the virus.

“You never think you’re going to be one who gets it.

“I think most of us are guilty of that. Just because you don’t know anyone with this doesn’t mean you won’t get it,” Ms O’Meara said

She spoke of how proud she is of her children and niece, adding: “The kids are suffering in their own way. My nine-year-old was nervous. 

"I had to explain that it affects everyone differently. In many ways, I’m lucky that it didn’t go the other way,” Ms O’Meara said.

She spoke of how difficult it can be to focus on anything other than the pandemic. 

“Every night, the Taoiseach is on television, the kids are waiting for Leo.

“That’s something I have never seen them do before. Nobody ever expected this and it has definitely put things into perspective.

“The thing about this virus is that one day you could feel fine.

“The next, you’ll have to stop halfway through a conversation, because you’re so breathless,” Ms O’Meara said.

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