A BELFAST man whose 90-year-old mother is recovering from Covid-19 has paid tribute to the 'amazing' staff in the nursing home where she lives for their tireless attention and round-the-clock care.
Bernie McNairney, a resident at Brooklands Nursing Home in Dunmurry, tested positive for coronavirus five weeks ago, and was so ill her family feared she wouldn't pull through.
But according to her son Damian, the staff - including six care workers who moved into the home to isolate themselves from their own families - were meticulous in their care of Bernie, who is now on the road to recovery.
And he said he felt the sector had been let down by the Government and treated as expendable, despite putting their own lives at risk.
Damian, a social worker from north Belfast, said: "Mum's been in the home for four years and a few years ago, she was moved to the dementia ward. In all that time, the staff have been fantastic but since she tested positive for coronavirus, they couldn't do enough for her. They have become more like friends of the family than care workers."
Damian says his heart sank when he learned that one of the residents in the home had passed away after testing positive for the virus. Then his sister rang him to say Bernie had tested positive, too.
Unable to visit her, he struggled with the lack of personal contact at such a worrying time.
"The worst thing about it all was not being able to see her or hold her hand and comfort her. I found that really tough. We hadn't been able to visit her for a few weeks prior to her taking ill, because of lockdown.
"I genuinely thought this was it; that given her age, we should resign ourselves to the fact she mightn't pull through."
An already frail Bernie was unable to leave her bed and lost her appetite, and her temperature spiked as she battled the virus. But then a member of the care team at the home gave Damian her personal telephone number and told him to contact her for regular updates. She also said that if his mum was feeling stronger, she'd help her to her window so she could wave out at him.
Before the weekly Clap for Carers a few Thursdays ago, Damian and his sons visited the home and stood outside on the street while the care worker helped Bernie to the window, so her family could see her.
"She was feeling much better at the time, her temperature was down, she was eating again and we were able to speak to her on the phone," he said.
"She still did look frail but last week she was much better and when we talked on the phone, she had a better idea of what was going on.
"Then afterwards, we went round to the other side of the building to show our appreciation by joining in the Clap for Carers."
Bernie, who turns 91 next month, is still in the recovery process, but Damian, a regular volunteer at St Patrick's soup kitchen, says the prognosis is good and that her appetite is healthy again and she's able to chat.
"When you hear that your 90-year-old mum has Covid-19 and is in a care home, you really do think the worst but all the signs are positive," he said.
"I really feel that the care sector has been not just let down by the Government but overlooked, too. They've been marginalised and treated as less important.
"But the care workers at Mum's home have looked after her so well. They're all heroes too."