Rose Mannion gets her first AztraZeneca jab at the vaccination centre at Galway Racecourse on Tuesday of last week.

Battling with Covid - a year on

A Lorrha woman who almost died after contracting Covid-19 says she is still suffering the ill-effects of her illness a full year after contracting the disease, and has issued an appeal to people to re-double their efforts to contain the virus, warning they don’t want to suffer the ordeal that she has endured.

Rose Mannion was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe on March 28th last year after contracting coronavirus. She became gravely ill and her family and staff feared for her life after her condition became critical.

She had to be put on a ventilator to keep her alive and was ultimately transferred for more specialist care to University Hospital Galway as her condition worsened. She developed a clot on her lungs, her kidneys failed and she had to be put on dialysis. When she finally woke up back in the hospital in Ballinasloe from an induced coma after a total of 81 days in ICU she had lost her powers of speech, hearing and sight. Her vocal chords and lungs were damaged.

Rose had no feeling in her legs and she felt so bad she thought her condition was hopeless. She became so down that there came a stage when she didn't even want to live.

REMARKABLE RECOVERY

But so remarkable was her recovery that staff referred to her as ‘The Miracle Woman’ and they formed a Guard of Honour and applauded as she was finally wheeled on a stretcher to an ambulance that transferred her for weeks of further step-down treatment in Limerick before being deemed well enough to return home.

“The fatigue and tiredness I felt after leaving hospital was overwhelming,” Rose, a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-two recalls. Her recovery has been frustratingly slow and some of the impacts of her illness still linger a full year on. Like the experience of so many who contracted the disease, her health and quality of life post-Covid is nowhere near where it was before her illness.

“I don't have the same energy that I used to have pre-Covid - that is for definite,” says Rose. “My lungs are still damaged and I still experience shortness of breath. If I stroll around I am grand, but if I put any kind of pressure on myself - like climbing the stairs - I have to stop and stand to catch my breath.”

Asked to rate her current level of health and well-being on a scale of one to ten compared to how she felt pre-Covid, she replies: “I'd say I'm about half as good as I was, maybe a little more, but definitely my health is not near where it was. Recovery is horrendously slow. If I sit in front of a computer all day I'm flying, but I feel the effects if I put on any exertion. I can go for a walk for an hour and a half at my own pace, but any little burst at all and I'm caught for breath.”

Since surviving the disease Rose has had to make a number of return trips to hospital so that staff can monitor the impact the illness has had on her. And after being contacted by University Hospital Galway, she is now participating in study involving a cohort of other post-Covid victims which is aimed at establishing the longterm effects of coronavirus.

SENSE OF TASTE AND SMELL

Like many victims of the disease, Rose lost her senses of taste and smell. “They were gone for months but they started to come back gradually around last October and November. It was awful to have no taste. Anything I ate was like cardboard. For a long time I just went through the motions of eating, because I had to eat.”

Rose says nobody knows how they are going to react if they contract the disease. She has heard and read of the stories of horrendous experiences endured by much younger people than her, some in their thirties, who became seriously ill or even died. “All the medical people will tell you the same thing: they don't still know enough about the disease. One nurse I was talking to said they don't know what the effects of Covid will be a month down the line - years down the line. That's scary.”

She feels the one major way people can reduce the level of the disease is by obeying the restrictions rather than blaming politicians for not doing enough. “I don't care what government is in power; it's horrible for any government because they are trying to do the right thing and it's just not working out.

“People are cribbing saying things like ‘oh I can't visit someone’, but we're all in the same boat and the way I feel is that maybe why not stick with the restrictions until we get rid of this deadly disease.”

“People are getting too complacent now and that is going to cause problems. Everyone has to realise that this disease has no boundaries whatoever. I feel sorry for business people and the owners of pubs that have been closed for so long but what else can be done? I would appeal to all people, young and old, to please stick with the restrictions as much as possible because you do not want this disease.”

Rose, who had been the Camogie and Lorrha correspondent for both this newspaper and The Midland Tribune, has since returned to do her weekly parish notes for The Guardian. But she is still not in a position to say if she is well enough to go back covering camogie once matches resume. “It's hard to judge, I will probably get back to doing some matches, but I don't know if I can get back to speed or the level of health I had before I got Covid,” she says.

FIRST VACCINE JAB

Rose, who had asthma prior to contracting Covid, travelled to the inoculation centre at Galway Racecourse for her first jab of the AztraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday of last week. By the time this newspaper spoke to her two days later she was suffering some some notable ill-effects from the jab.

“I got the vaccine at 1pm on Tuesday and was fine up to all day Wednesday. But then about 6pm I began to feel terrible tiredness. I started getting terrible sweats and an upset tummy, but medical staff had told me I might experience some ill-effects. I'm glad they told me that I might feel miserable, otherwise I would be thinking I have the virus again.”

But Rose says that despite the effects the jab has had on her she will have no hesitation in getting her second injection which, to her surprise, is not due for another three months. “I will be sticking out my arm for the second injection. You can bet your life I will,” she asserts. “The effects of the jab are only an inconvenience to what I suffered; it's nothing compared to what I went through.”

My message to people is to go get the vaccine, let's get rid of this terrible disease. I don't know why people wouldn't get the vaccine, and I don't understand why some people are not wearing masks or why people are anti-vaccine. What's wrong with people? If they were on the side I was on and saw what happened to me and others like me they would wear a mask and take extra precautions.”

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