Corona cri­sis is the ‘fight of our lives’ says Donal

SOLIC­I­TOR WAS AMONG FIRST IR­ISH CASES OF VIRUS

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - FRONT PAGE - By EIMEAR DODD

An Ark­low man, who con­tracted Covid-19, is urg­ing oth­ers to fol­low ad­vice to slow the spread of the virus in Ire­land.

Solic­i­tor and for­mer coun­cil­lor Donal O’Sullivan says he was among the first in Ire­land di­ag­nosed with the virus af­ter trav­el­ling to Italy for a ski trip.

Af­ter a mem­ber of the group was di­ag­nosed with the virus, Mr O’Sullivan in­sisted on a test, de­spite hav­ing no symp­toms com­monly associated with Covid-19.

Fol­low­ing a pe­riod of self-iso­la­tion in hospi­tal and at home, Mr O’Sullivan has been given the all-clear by the HSE and doc­tors.

He is now urg­ing oth­ers ‘to be so so care­ful in re­la­tion to what they’re do­ing and where they are go­ing’.

‘We’re in the fight of our lives here. There will be an aw­ful lot of peo­ple like me who’ ll be fine. We’ ll be back in the world. I’m sure ev­ery­one is sick of the phrase ‘flat­ten­ing the curve’, but that’s what they are try­ing to do to buy us some time,’ Mr O’Sullivan said.

An Ark­low man has spo­ken about his ex­pe­ri­ence of con­tract­ing Covid-19.

Solic­i­tor and for­mer Ark­low Mayor Donal O’Sullivan says he was among the first in Ire­land to be di­ag­nosed with the virus fol­low­ing a ski trip to Italy. As he had none of the symp­toms associated with the virus - cough, fever, sore throat - Mr O’Sullivan only be­came aware that he had con­tracted it af­ter in­sist­ing on a test.

Now fully re­cov­ered and back at work, Mr O’Sullivan is urg­ing oth­ers to fol­low the HSE’s ad­vice to slow the spread of the virus.

Speak­ing to this pa­per, Mr O’Sullivan said he con­tacted the HSE and ski com­pany be­fore trav­el­ling and had been as­sured that ‘ev­ery­thing was fine’.

‘We were in Trentino in north-east­ern Italy and when we went there might have been 12 or 13 cases in Italy. We were told we weren’t in an af­fected area at all and that we’d noth­ing to worry about.’

He had trav­elled to Italy for this ski trip as part of a group of 18. They con­tacted the HSE be­fore re­turn­ing to Ire­land and were told once more ‘ev­ery­thing was fine’.

The group re­turned to Ire­land through Verona Air­port where ‘maybe one in five peo­ple were wear­ing masks. There was no sense of panic at all,’ ac­cord­ing to Mr O’Sullivan. He called the HSE again on his re­turn to Ire­land on Sun­day, March 1. At that stage, as he had no symp­toms and had not been in an af­fected area, Mr O’Sullivan says he was ad­vised to con­tinue as nor­mal.

He con­tacted the HSE be­fore go­ing back to work and was told ‘ “you’re fine. You’re not in an af­fected area. You don’t have symp­toms so stop cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary panic”. This was fair enough at the time be­cause that’s what ev­ery­body thought.

‘The HSE didn’t do any­thing [wrong] in what they said to me. They didn’t know.’

The fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day, a mem­ber of the ski group told the oth­ers that she had been di­ag­nosed with coro­n­avirus. Mr O’Sullivan im­me­di­ately went into self-iso­la­tion as a pre­cau­tion.

‘She’s a nurse and be­fore she went back to work, she’d in­sisted on get­ting tested and was found to be pos­i­tive. I hadn’t spent any time in her com­pany and didn’t meet any of the ex­po­sure cri­te­ria to her, but I im­me­di­ately left where I was.

‘I went into self iso­la­tion and con­tacted the HSE. They wouldn’t test me be­cause I wasn’t close enough to this per­son to be in­fected and had no symp­toms. I said ‘okay’ then I rang later and in­sisted I got tested even though I had no symp­toms.’

On Thurs­day, March 5, Donal re­ceived word that he had tested pos­i­tive for Covid-19. He was taken to the Mater Hospi­tal in Dublin where he spent the next seven days in iso­la­tion. This was fol­lowed by a fur­ther seven days in self-iso­la­tion at his home. Sev­eral other mem­bers of the ski group who had con­tracted the virus were also treated in iso­la­tion at the Mater Hospi­tal.

On his ex­pe­ri­ence in self-iso­la­tion, Mr O’Sullivan said ‘ luck­ily I live in the coun­try and I had my own area in the house which is nor­mally owned by the cat, but we had to get used to one an­other. It was fine, I was able to work and to go out­side if I wanted.’

Mr O’Sullivan said he had no tem­per­a­ture with the virus and was able to con­tinue to work, but thinks ‘it might have af­fected my sense of smell a lit­tle bit.’

‘If I hadn’t been tested, I’d have never known. I wouldn’t have had a rea­son to be tested ex­cept one of the girls was a nurse and got her­self tested. Of the seven of our group [in­fected], not one of them was un­well.’

Last Wed­nes­day, Donal re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion from the HSE that he had re­cov­ered from the virus.

‘They gave me a cer­tifi­cate to con­firm that I’m re­cov­ered from the virus and I’m im­mune to the cur­rent strain.

‘Ef­fec­tively af­ter 14 days you’re deemed to be fin­ished and non-in­fec­tious. I have the ac­tual cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the HSE be­cause I wouldn’t go out of my house or any­where un­til I got that let­ter.’

The St Mary’s Road of­fice re-opened on Mon­day with so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in place. Mr O’Sullivan paid trib­ute to prac­tice part­ner Aine Hogan and their staff who con­tin­ued to work re­motely.

While Mr O’Sullivan says the Gov­ern­ment are ‘play­ing a blinder’, he is urg­ing oth­ers ‘to be so so care­ful in re­la­tion to what they’re do­ing and where they are go­ing.’

‘It’s all about buy­ing time to slow the growth of it and that comes down to peo­ple be­ing ex­tremely re­spon­si­ble. Peo­ple have been fan­tas­tic and they’ve re­sponded ex­tremely well to what they’ve been asked. But, we will be asked to do more and we’ ll have to do it.’

‘Ev­ery­body is at risk from this and for most peo­ple, it’s not go­ing to that bad an ex­pe­ri­ence. The prob­lem is it’s go­ing to be a bad ex­pe­ri­ence for peo­ple who are vul­ner­a­ble, have un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions and the el­derly. ‘Those peo­ple are se­ri­ously at risk.’ In par­tic­u­lar, Mr O’Sullivan says peo­ple should be wary of the in­for­ma­tion they share on so­cial me­dia to avoid spread­ing ‘non­sense and mis­in­for­ma­tion’,

‘That was the hard­est part for me. Deal­ing with the mis­in­for­ma­tion and ru­mours be­ing spread around about other peo­ple was tough... It doesn’t help. Peo­ple have con­tacted me to say they think they may have such and such but don’t want to be tested be­cause they know what it could draw on them. They were self iso­lat­ing and do­ing ev­ery­thing else right. They need to be en­cour­aged to be tested.’

Mr O’Sullivan is full of praise for the HSE and hospi­tal staff who looked af­ter him.

‘The HSE have fan­tas­tic stuff up now [on their web­site] and they’ve been very sup­port­ive. Even up un­til yes­ter­day, the con­sul­tant in the Mater was still ring­ing me to ask ‘how are you?’

‘Th­ese guys are up to their necks and they found the time to ring me. They are ab­so­lutely play­ing a blinder and ev­ery­one should be very proud of what they are do­ing. They are putting them­selves in the fir­ing line in a big way. They need to be ap­plauded. We should sup­port them and each other.

‘We’re in the fight of our lives here. There will be an aw­ful lot of peo­ple like me who’ ll be fine. We’ ll be back in the world.

‘I’m sure ev­ery­one is sick of the phrase ‘flat­ten­ing the curve’, but that’s what they are try­ing to do to buy us some time.’

I WENT INTO SELF­ISO­LA­TION AND CON­TACTED THE HSE. THEY WOULDN’T TEST ME...I IN­SISTED ON GET­TING TESTED EVEN THOUGH I HAD NO SYMP­TOMS

Solic­i­tor and a for­mer Ark­low Mayor Donal O’Sullivan says he was among the first in Ire­land to be di­ag­nosed with the virus fol­low­ing a ski trip to Italy.

Donal O’Sullivan.

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