Prominent Belfast solicitor Niall Murphy has returned home after battling the coronavirus for four weeks in hospital.
In an interview with news website The Detail, Mr Murphy said his wife Maria was told that it was 50/50 that he would pull through.
After being reunited with his three children, aged 12, 11 and 7, Mr Murphy paid tribute to the dedication and professionalism of medics who looked after him at Antrim Area Hospital.
The 43-year-old solicitor was admitted to hospital on Wednesday, March 25.
“I was in a coma for 16 days and was obviously oblivious to everything but the hardest toll was carried by family," he said.
“At one stage, Marie was advised that it was 50/50 if I would pull through.
“I’m only now coming round to appreciate the danger I was in but my wife and family had to live with it in real time."
Mr Murphy, who is a partner at Belfast legal firm KRW Law, believes he contracted the virus at some point while abroad on a series of speaking engagements.
“I had been invited to New York by the Brehon Law Society to speak at their annual St Patrick’s Day dinner on Tuesday, March 10," he said.
“I also had some engagements on behalf of the Ireland’s Future group. I had flown to New York from Glasgow where I’d had some similar talks, so I was fairly tired on the flight home into Dublin.
“I think I either picked it up in the taxi to the airport, at the airport or indeed, on the plane itself.”
Mr Murphy had been due to attended an event on Friday March 13 at Naomh Eanna CLG club. He is vice-chairman at the club.
The club, having won the Ulster Intermediate Championship, had planned a night of celebration. But 24-hours before hand the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus threat.
That evening Mr Murphy began to feel unwell.
"By bed time I knew I wasn’t well but thought it was the exertions of the previous week and hoped to sleep it off," he said.
“On Saturday morning 14th, my temperature was over 40, so I knew I had to isolate myself which I did. That in itself was a torrid time. I didn’t leave bed and no appetite whatsoever. I couldn’t get the temperature down.”
“Our Naomh Éanna club doctor, Dermot Maguire kept an eye on me and ultimately advised I should go to hospital as the symptoms weren’t lifting.”
He went to hospital on March 25 and tested positive for Covid-19. He was immediately transferred to intensive care. He was placed in an induced coma and put on a ventilator. He was critically ill.
Over the course of the next 16-days, Mr Murphy fought for his life while his wife waited by the phone for daily updates as she was unable to visit. However, he gradually improved, with video footage of medical staff clapping as he left intensive care going viral on social media.
Now back home, the lawyer has a long period of recovery ahead of him. He says he now appreciates how valuable our health care staff are.
“As a society we should be ashamed of ourselves as to how we treat and resource the NHS," he said.
“These people are the equivalent of the firemen who rushed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 yet we have asked them to confront this crisis with insufficient PPE. That’s a disgrace.
"We should be ashamed at the fact that nurses had to strike in the darkness of winter for pay parity,” he said.
“We should also recall that the current government voted against pay rises for the NHS and no amount of honeyed words about the great treatment he received (from nurses who would have residency problems ironically post-Brexit) from Boris should distract from that.
"An immediate rise and sustainable pay structure should be immediately considered by Parliament. Student loans for doctors should be cancelled if they are working in the NHS.
"How would you pay for this? Simple. The wealthy should pay more in tax.”