| 9.4°C Belfast

Living with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland: Ballycastle man on how coronavirus left him 'flat on his back' in just 24 hours

A Radio Ulster documentary highlights the devastating impact coronavirus is having on people across the province

Close

Richard McBride

Richard McBride

Richard McBride

A Ballycastle man has talked of how he ended up fighting for his life after coronavirus left him flat on his back just 24 hours after he was "up and about and feeling fine".

"Trying to quantify how scary it is has been has very difficult," says Richard McBride in a BBC Radio Ulster documentary which looks at the devastating impact of the deadly Covid-19 on people here.

The half-hour programme, Alone Together, also hears from a new mum whose parents haven't seen their grandchild and from a couple who had to call off their wedding just as guests prepared to fly into Northern Ireland from all over the world.

Featured, too, are business people who have no idea if their shops will ever re-open and a six-year-old boy who talks about not missing school in the lockdown.

Richard McBride (49), from just outside Ballycastle, started to feel unwell after returning from London, where he's a part-time student.

"I have no idea how I contracted coronavirus," he says. "Before I flew back home, I had not been out and about at all. I had been very, very rigorous with washing hands and disinfecting everything. And there was no obvious route of infection.

"The day before I fell ill with the fever, I was up and about doing everything normally and, all of a sudden, I started suffering from a very high temperature."

Richard, who has had two treatments for cancer in the past, tried to convince himself he had the flu, but then he developed a sore throat and a "pretty awful cough".

"The strange thing with it, which convinced me it wasn't flu, was that it would come and go. For half-a-day, you would feel okay and then there was half-a-day of feeling absolutely dreadful. Sleep was terrible, fatigue was pretty bad," says Richard, who then had difficulty breathing "as if all the air had been sucked out of my lungs".

Richard adds that his normal reaction would have been to take a couple of paracetamol and a cup of tea, but he agreed with his partner that he should call an ambulance for him.

Richard was rushed to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, where his blood pressure was so low and his temperature so high that the medical teams weren't able to get blood from him.

Richard was told in A&E that he probably had coronavirus and he was wheeled to an isolation area with two cleaners following him, wiping down every surface.

Richard, whose temperature rose to 38.7 degrees, was told by the medics that the virus was very new and that they didn't know what they were dealing with.

"There was lots of paracetamol, lots of oxygen, but thankfully I wasn't on a ventilator in intensive care."

And, after three days, Richard was allowed home with a warning that a full recovery could take three months.

But a week-and-a-half after he was discharged from hospital, his lungs became sore and he developed other symptoms, which he was told weren't unusual. Richard was put on antibiotics and told not to be alarmed.

After another week, he was fine. But his partner was "pretty certain" that he had the virus, too, though he wasn't allowed a test. "That uncertainty for him is very hard," says Richard.

Close

Maura Sloan and baby Eamonn

Maura Sloan and baby Eamonn

Maura Sloan and baby Eamonn

The lockdown has also meant that families have been forced to stay apart and, for Maura Sloan, the birth of her son, on March 16, brought the frustration of her loved ones not being allowed to visit.

"My mum and dad, who live less than a mile away, haven't even seen him," says Maura, who has, instead, taken to holding her son up at the front of her house, so that her family can have a look at him as they drive past.

"It's so surreal. I don't know whether to laugh or cry," she says. "But you just don't want to take the risk."

Close

Angie Tandon and Ed Canning

Angie Tandon and Ed Canning

Angie Tandon and Ed Canning

Angie Tandon and Ed Canning should have been starting a new life by now as man and wife. But coronavirus put paid to their wedding.

"There was no build-up. It was just gone," says Ed. "In a matter of days, it was just like the entire world had stopped."

Angie's family were due to fly into Northern Ireland from India and Canada, joining friends from the Cayman Islands, England and Australia.

"But now we're stuck in our kitchen," says Angie.

Close

Patricia McGinnis

Patricia McGinnis

Patricia McGinnis

Patricia McGinnis, who owns an award-winning furniture and homeware shop called Maven with her sister, Catherine, off the Lisburn Road in Belfast, talks in the documentary of the anguish of having to shut down the business because of the virus.

Patricia says she isn't allowing herself to think of the future. But she hopes that the shop will re-open.

The documentary also hears from father-of-two Ryan Gaston, a delivery driver from Coleraine, who has been working round the clock to keep food going into shops throughout the pandemic crisis.

He says he sees himself as a key worker, helping families in lockdown and frontline staff.

"If we weren't delivering the stuff, there would be nothing on the shelves," he says.

But because Ryan and his wife, who's also a key worker, come into contact with so many people, they decided it would be "better safe than sorry" if their children stayed with their grandparents.

Close

Michelle Gallen

Michelle Gallen

Michelle Gallen

Michelle Gallen, a Tyrone-born writer who now lives in Dublin, talks of her fear in the wake of another illness.

She recovered from pneumonia late last year and decided to go into isolation after hearing about the coronavirus emerging in China.

"If I get the virus, it is going to be a big problem for me," she says.

Twenty-nine-year old Jessica Anderson also falls into the vulnerable category.

She was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 15 years ago and she says her biggest concern is that if she got the virus, she wouldn't be able to control her blood sugar levels and she could go into diabetic shock, or a coma.

Close

Orfhlaith Ni Chearnaigh

Orfhlaith Ni Chearnaigh

Orfhlaith Ni Chearnaigh

For TV producer Orfhlaith Ni Chearnaigh, from Magherafelt, one of her biggest concerns over the virus is the misinformation that regularly sweeps over the internet and social media.

"Everybody is scared enough already and I don't think you need to increase that.

"People are definitely making stuff up, starting rumours about services being shut down and curfews being enacted and the Army being on the street," says Orfhlaith, who tries to counteract the false claims with posts on social media.

The documentary also features upbeat interviews with people who speak of the unity and kindness of communities who are helping others in need.

Luke McCann

But one of the last words goes to six-year-old Luke McCann, who is remarkably upbeat about home-schooling.

"I haven't been to school in a while, because everything is in lockdown," he says, adding that the good things are that he can listen to the radio while he's doing his schoolwork and that he can see more of his father, who's working from home.

But the bad things are that he misses his friends, his cousins and his grandparents.

"But I don't think about school too much, because I might not be going back until September," he says.

Alone Together, BBC Radio Ulster, Saturday May 16 at 12 noon

Belfast Telegraph