A man who spent 46 days in a coma with Covid-19 and was in hospital fighting the virus last Christmas, said, “this year Christmas has been great,” but he admitted he is scared of the Omicron variant.
Derek Wallace (49), from county Monaghan, is dealing with numerous side effects of Covid-19 including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ongoing pain.
He was working as a health care assistant on the Covid wards in Daisyhill Hospital in Newry, Co Down and on October 30th last year he came down with what he believed was a migraine.
The next day he found it so hard to breathe that an ambulance was called to his home; he did not return to it until the January 25th this year.
He was first treated in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda where he was put on a BiPAP machine to deliver oxygen and was also put in the prone position (lying on his abdomen) to help his breathing.
However, four days later he had to be put into an induced coma and ventilated in ICU. When he was woken, over six weeks later, he was in ICU in the Mater Hospital, was on dialysis and had a tracheotomy.
He also discovered he had been put on an ECMO - Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation - which is a life support machine that replaces the function of both the heart and lungs. “I was on the ECMO for two and a half weeks. It saved my life,” he said.
He was transferred back to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital just before Christmas last year and while his memories of that time are understandably blurry, he said, “I can remember one of the nurses from ICU coming down to see me on the ward, and she gave me a present.
“She wanted to see how I was feeling and, to be honest, I was very low. I was missing my partner Luiz, my family and my gran. She died just before Christmas in 2015 and was a huge part of my life.”
Speaking from his home in Castleblayney today, he said, “this Christmas has been great.”
“To be here to help put up decorations in the house, to help put up the Christmas tree and begin to get about again to shop and to see the excitement of young families getting ready for Santa, is great and so different to last year.”
Derek has ongoing pain in his joints, headaches, brain fog and “at times when I try to say something I can't get the words out".
He is also waiting to see a specialist about a problem with his left leg and foot “which has left me debilitated and unable to balance".
“I am definitely in a better place this Christmas compared to last year, but I still have a long road to go. I feel strongly that unless someone has been on my journey and been on life support and had to learn to walk again, as I did, all due to Covid-19, that they do not understand the pain I have.
“I hope 2022 will see my breathing improve, being able to walk faster and for longer, and I will admit I am scared of the Omicron virus.
“All I can say to people is for the rest of 2021 and until this pandemic is over, stay safe.”