A nurse left fighting for her life after working at a care home at the centre of a deadly Covid-19 outbreak has been discharged from hospital.
Colette McAfee was diagnosed with the virus after working at Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast, where nine residents with Covid-19 have died. She spent 26 days in intensive care, where her condition was described by medics as critical.
As she fought the devastating effects of the virus, her family was repeatedly warned that she was not expected to survive. However, she defied the odds and returned to her home in west Belfast this week.
Her daughter Emma Louise Aiken said: "We're absolutely delighted to have her back home.
"I'm staying with her while she gets back on her feet and I just don't want to leave her, she's going to be sick of the sight of me."
Serious concerns were raised over why 64-year-old Colette, who came out of retirement to help on the frontline, was placed in Clifton Nursing Home, which had been failing to meet minimum infection control standards ahead of the pandemic.
Her placement at the home was even more worrying as she has diabetes, which means she was at greater risk from the virus.
Runwood Homes, the company that owns Clifton Nursing Home, had been repeatedly warned to raise standards at the facility - in particular over infection control procedures.
On March 3, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) gave it a third and final warning to address infection control failings after first raising concerns in April last year.
Colette began working at the home on May 8 and was diagnosed with the virus on May 15.
Her condition quickly deteriorated and she was rushed to hospital, before being moved to the ICU at the Mater Hospital.
Emma Louise continued: "We really thought she was never going to get out of there. She had a really bad time, they took her off the ventilator and had to put her back on immediately. They phoned us to say they didn't think she would be able to stay off the ventilator.
"Mum doesn't remember getting sick. She remembers getting her test results, but she doesn't remember the day she went to hospital - everything is a blur to her.
"She had a lot of dreams while she was in the coma and when she woke up, she thought a lot of things had happened that weren't true.
"She actually thought she had been in intensive care for a week. We have been telling her what happened but only bit by bit because we don't want to overwhelm her too much."
Emma Louise has told Colette that she met with the Health Minister and Chief Nursing Officer at the start of June to discuss her concerns about the circumstances leading up to her mum falling ill.
She has put a series of questions to Robin Swann and Charlotte McArdle but is yet to receive a response.
Emma Louise now wants to arrange a further meeting to give her mum an opportunity to speak to Mr Swann about her experience working at Clifton Nursing Home.
Conditions there were considered so dangerous that Mr Swann announced on May 22 that steps were being taken to move residents elsewhere. However, an alternative provider was subsequently found to take over management of the home on a temporary basis, enabling the residents to remain.
The home, which was handed a failure to comply notice by regulators on May 20, was found to be in compliance with basic standards on June 24.
Emma Louise continued: "Mum obviously had no idea how sick she has been but we were waiting for a phone call every day to find out whether she was alive or dead.
"There were quite a few days where we thought she was never coming home.
"The staff in the hospital were amazing, they were so good, and we have been so overwhelmed by all the messages of support we've had.
"Patients of mums from years ago found out how sick she was and got in touch, which meant so much.
"We're just so delighted to have her home, it just shows how determined she is. It's fantastic - she's fantastic."
Clifton Nursing Home has failed to meet basic standards over the years and in November last year, the chair of the Belfast Trust board Peter McNaney said the trust was "concerned that the home does struggle to sustain improvements".
A spokesperson for Runwood Homes said: “We are unable to comment on any staff employed by Belfast HSC Trust but do absolutely wish this Nurse a continued and rapid onward recovery.”