Irish Examiner Saturday
‘When I got sick, they didn’t tell me I had it’
Ballynoe resident Margot McAuliffe says she only found out she had Covid when it was mentioned to her in passing, writes
NOBODY was as surprised as Margot McAuliffe herself when she found out that she had Covid-19. This is because, bored with listening to fellow Ballynoe Nursing Home residents discussing bowel movements in the day room, she retreated to her own room “years ago”.
Since the pandemic, she has hardly left it.
Yet a Covid-19 test she took on Friday, January 29, turned out to be positive.
She says she only found out she had the virus by accident when, she says, a member of staff mentioned it in passing.
Although the company did not comment on how or when she was told, it insists her family were told in a timely manner.
Although the 87-year-old, from Douglas, survived the outbreak in the Upper Glanmire home where there have been up to 25 deaths, most — but not all — of which have been from Covid, Margot remains very unwell.
Indeed, a few hours after her interview with the Irish Examiner, her condition deteriorated so much that she was moved to the Mercy Hospital yesterday.
Her daughters Claire and Ruth and son Greg, whom the Irish Examiner have spoken to, support Margot’s decision to do the interview.
“About the Covid thing?” she asked rhetorically down the phone from her bedroom.
“I stay in my room all the time, and it is my personal choice.
“So I never thought for one minute I would get it. When I got sick, they didn’t tell me I had it — and I was violently sick.
“But out of the blue, this person said: ‘You have Covid’, and I thought, ‘I couldn’t have, because I never left the room’. Somebody gave it to me.”
On her battle with the virus, she says: “I am not through it, I feel miserable.
“I am feeling dreadful. I am not well, and this is because of the Covid.
“I’ve been suffering very badly because of it. I am just lying in bed the whole time and I feel absolutely dreadful. My family can’t come in and see me, and I can’t do window visits.”
Clearly frustrated, she adds: “I am sick of it, and I’m also sick of not feeling well.
“I get very, very lonely and despondent.”
One of the things Margot misses most is being able to go to a local restaurant — The Barn Restaurant in Glanmire — with her adult children.
She has her own mixed views about CareChoice, the company which runs Ballynoe.
Margot complained to the home that a nurse had shouted at her last August.
At the time, she says she had been waiting seven hours for antibiotics to be administered to her right eye, which was in agony.
She says she repeatedly had to ask staff to get a nurse to tend to her.
Margot says that when the nurse turned up, she said the
nurse shouted at her, threw the medicine at her, and told her to put it on herself.
The company was asked about this, as well as the apology Margot says she subsequently received, and it replied: “The matter was dealt with properly and appropriately.”
Concerns about the way the company managed the recent Covid-19 outbreak have not only been voiced in this paper, but also raised in the Dáil by Socialist Party TD Mick Barry.
Residents at the home started testing positive for the virus from the middle of January in what the company later described as a “significant” outbreak.
Some of the relatives of those who died are not happy about the way they say CareChoice has handled the situation.
As well as one pensioner dying alone and unattended, other relatives say they were only told their loved one had died hours after they actually passed.
The company has confirmed that a resident passed away during a family window visit. No staff member was present in the room.
As far as people not being given adequate information about their loved ones in a timely manner, the home has also apologised for this.
The company insists that
staff did their best at all times.
Margot’s heart goes out to those who work at the home, where there was a change of key management early last December.
“As far as CareChoice is concerned, all the people I have got to know over the years have left,” she says.
“The people I liked and got on with have all gone. I really don’t know anybody here anymore. I appreciate everyone has to better themselves. “I feel heartbroken.
“They all go sooner or later. You can’t get too attached to anybody because you have to progress in life.
“I saw how hard they work.”
Since a recent fall at the home, she now rarely leaves her bed, let alone her room.
“I thought I was near the bed, which I wasn’t, and I went down like a lead balloon,” Margot says.
“I said to them there was nothing wrong, but the following day my knee hurt.
“I was shaken, you know, I was really shaking. I no longer feel safe walking.”
Margot moved to the home about nine years ago after suffering a number of mobility issues.
Before she retired, the mother of four, whose husband died in 1986, held a variety of positions, including running M&P O’Sullivan tobacconists on Princes St, Cork.
She made a few friends in the first few years of being in the home, and earned herself the title of ‘The Queen of Ballynoe’.
Most of her friends in the home have long since died however, and she has increasingly spent most of her time alone in her bedroom.
“It is my choice to stay in the room,” she said.
“When I used to go to the day room, which is years ago, some of the residents would say things like: ‘I didn’t open my bowels today’.
“Now, I don’t give a shoot if they ever opened their bowels, so I decided I would stay in my room.”
She spends her days listening to the radio and the TV,
but admits that she is no fan of RTÉ.
“I don’t mean to sound unpatriotic,” she adds with a chuckle.
On life in Ballynoe, she says: “I’ve no heart for the place. I feel very, very much alone.
“I know that this is old age and lack of communication, but I feel desperate.
“You have to ring to go to the toilet, you have to ring to get off the toilet, you have to ring if I go out for a cigarette, and you have to ring to [get someone to] bring you back in.
“There is no decision you can make for yourself, because you’re just somebody that is there.
“I wouldn’t recommend it on my worst enemy.”
Asked if she was sure about making her story public, she said she was happy, “if it could improve things” — not just for her, but for others.
“I would be glad to,” she said, before apologising for taking up so much of my time, and saying she hoped we would speak again.
I am feeling dreadful. I am not well, and this is because of the Covid