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Coronavirus: Seriously ill pastor tells NI public stay 'six feet apart, or we will be six feet under'

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Pastor Mark McClurg speaking from his hospital bed about coronavirus

Pastor Mark McClurg speaking from his hospital bed about coronavirus

Pastor Mark McClurg speaking from his hospital bed about coronavirus

Co Down pastor Mark McClurg has appealed to the public to respect social distancing measures after spending the last week in intensive care with the coronavirus.

The 40-year-old father-of three said if the public does not "keep six feet apart, we are going to end up six feet under".

Speaking to the BBC's Talkback programme from the Ulster Hospital while still audibly suffering the effects of the virus, he said he prayed to God for help after feeling as if he was about to die while in hospital.

He said he was worried for his family and told his wife: "This is it, I can't breathe no more.

"I'm a Christian and I love Jesus, but I said to Claire, I know I'm going to heaven, I was so worried for them.

"I even prayed, I said: 'Lord I am ready for heaven, but I'm not ready to leave my family they need me.

"I prayed the Lord would help me through that night. I've never felt that feeling before like I'm going to die, when you can't even breathe.

Speaking about when he first became ill on March 12, Pastor Mark said he was prescribed viral antibiotics for an eye infection, which he believes weakened his immune system shortly before he suffered shortness of breath.

"My chest became more painful and my breathing became more laboured. Last Monday I came up the stairs and I'm young and fit and healthy and my wife was putting the children to bed. I said: "Claire I can't breathe".

"I felt like I was drowning. [Coronavirus] came with pneumonia and it was sucking the life out of my lungs."

What followed were nights where the pastor was struggling to breathe and hold on to his life, he said.

Every breath is painful, sore

Pastor Mark said he has listened to the staff in the intensive care unit, paying tribute to their bravery.

"They're coming to work and they all know at one stage they're going to get the coronavirus. What really upset me is watching the news and people going out and not keeping their distance. I'm fit, I'm healthy, I'm only 40.

"If someone was to come in to ICU because coronavirus, they're going to struggle to breathe, every breath is painful, sore."

He said he doesn't want there to come a stage where staff have to choose who is helped.

"There's only so many beds, so many ventilators. I don't want this to come to a stage where they have to pick and choose who lives and who dies."

He added: "The social distancing is to protect us and more importantly to protect the NHS."

I don't want this to come to a stage where they have to pick and choose who lives and who dies

First Minister Arlene Foster earlier this week mentioned Pastor Mark by name and said she had spoken to his wife Claire.

Pastor Mark said: "I was at the lowest point and Arlene Foster didn't need to do that but she phoned Claire and encouraged her. Politicians need to work together. Coronavirus doesn't care if you're Protestant or Catholic, it will kill us all.

"Yes I'm sick but my wife is at home worried sick. In coronavirus, you're in isolation and no one can come near you. I've never been away from the wee babies and not being able to hold them in my arms."

The pastor thanked his family at his church, Ards Elim, saying: "My church family never left me, they kept praying for me."

He asked the public to show kindness to NHS staff, who he said are suffering due to the physical discomfort of the PPE masks they have to wear.

"I'm the calm before the storm," he said, telling presenter Chris Buckler he does not want to be in a situation where he or any members of his family are in an intensive care unit due to coronavirus.

Belfast Telegraph