A Co Down Pastor has had an “emotional but happy” return to the Ulster Hospital for the first time since he was in intensive care for coronavirus.
Mark McClurg, the evangelical pastor of Newtownards Elim Church, had no underlying health conditions when he was hospitalised in March.
But coronavirus quickly left him fighting for his life in the Dundonald hospital.
“There are so many I want to personally thank because for me, the Ulster Hospital will always be the place where not only my wee babies were born, but my life was saved,” he said, speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster radio programme.
“We need to protect the NHS and I’m so glad we’re coming through this,” he said.
“I just see a lot of people going out and not really thinking that this coronavirus is still about.
“For me in ICU, it always felt like I was running uphill and couldn’t get any breath and somebody had dropped two bags of broken glass into my lungs and they were filling with water.
“Everything was a struggle but I was so grateful that I was able to talk even though I was really ill.”
At the hospital, Pastor McClurg — who is married to Claire (42) and is father to Liliana (5) and twin boys Josiah and Judah (2) — was cared for by clinical lead sister Shauna Lynam and Jenny Bradley, a physiotherapist.
Ms Lynam said staff at the hospital are still uncertain as to what the future holds.
“I think personally in work we’re just taking it week by week. No one can tell what’s ahead for us,” she said.
“There was certainly a time where we were concerned for ourselves, not knowing this disease and there was concern at what level of nursing we would have to move to, having watched Italy and all the other countries ahead of us, it brought us a level of anxiety.
“I think when the same team comes in every day we face those anxieties together.”
Ms Bradley added: “We were all going home to potentially vulnerable relatives. I care for my mother, who is 86 and quite frail. Even now, I would still be quite cautious.
“The hands-on treatment was no different, the difference was doing it kitted out in the full PPE, difficulties with communication with patients who are anxious and stressed,” she said.