FEELING bad that I was even asking the question, I approached Padraic Kierans on Monday. Would he consider putting in words what he is going through, fighting Covid-19?
Why Padraic, and why now? Well, the Anglo Printers’ managing director, and member of a well-known business and racing family, had shared a few frightening tweets about testing positive for Covid-19, being overwhelmed by the infection, and being admitted to hospital.
The year 2020 was largely one to forget for Padraic and all of his family. Apart from the obvious affect Covid-19 had on life, the year also saw the passing of his father Johnny, a much-loved patriarch of the Kierans family.
Padraic welcomed Christmas 2020 with a smile on his face, and a hole in his heart. Empty chairs were a reminder of missing loved ones, while he and his family were also looking ahead to some great days at the races, and some runners in his colours. Last year Loudest Whisper gave him reasons to be cheerful when winning at Galway and Fairyhouse.
His Christmas day posting of a picture of himself, his wife Jean and their four children, is one of happiness.
The festive period was quiet in another sense. No visits, observing strict protocols and an adherence to all the recommendations have become the norm for Padraic. As an employer of 50, and very conscious of his responsibility to them, his own family and to the greater community, Padraic would say he is ultra-careful.
Five days after Christmas, all the festive happiness and hope collapsed. The result of a precautionary Covid-19 test, provided by the army, came back. What he hoped might have been a ‘touch of flu’ was, instead, a positive Covid-19 result. He was floored, describing the symptoms as “chills which shake your core; sweats like you’re in hell.”
He went on to say his breathing was severely impaired, he had pains in every limb and was suffering severe headaches. Telling his followers on Twitted that “it’s not good”, Padraic asked everyone to respect the pandemic which was starting to cause the HSE and doctors to be overrun. It was not the run-in to a new year that he was looking forward to.
Radio silence followed for a few days. Seven days in and Padraic tweeted that he had been able to shower, but the effort resulted in a quick retreat to bed. He said: “All the obvious symptoms, and some very strange ones too. Sick as a small hospital”.
Grateful for all the expressions of support and love from people, he asked that the authorities publish a daily list of vaccinations, calling on them to “throw the kitchen sink at vaccines”, adding “this is the only way we can win.”
That day, Sunday, January 3rd, was to get worse. Still at home, Padraic had a terrible night and the following day was sent to Accident and Emergency for respiratory assistance. His blood oxygen was low and he had developed Covid-19 pneumonia in both lungs. In spite of being so ill, and with beds at a premium, he was treated with oxygen and steroids and discharged. His hope was that the steroids would lift his breathing to something approaching comfort.
Last Friday Padraic was back in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, and his tweet was scary. On his twelfth day with Covid-19, his lungs had worsened and his blood oxygen levels were too low. He was brought to the emergency department and the decision was made to keep him in this time.
One sentence in his tweet was enough to send shivers up the spine of this writer, and no doubt did so for others. Padraic said: “There’s young, old and all in between here with Covid-19; the coughing is haunting”. Paying tribute to the patients, the doctors and the nurses, he again asked that people stay safe and stay home.
This week, as the battle to recover continues for the popular Co Louth man, Padraic agreed to share his story for one reason only. He told me: “If you think it would save a life I am happy for you to tell it.” That is the reality of what we are facing. This pandemic is having a devastating impact on people’s lives, people we know and love. Yet, Covid-19 fatigue can easily set in and we relax our guard. We cannot let this happen.
Padraic told me: “I don’t know how I got it, but it’s not something I would want to give to one other human. It really is a killer. I’m still in hospital and getting the best of care. The hospital is now full – not one bed left.
“Stay home, stay safe and well, and we’ll soon get past the worst, and into a summer of racing fun, please god.” He ended by saying, “This is not a drill, and this is definitely NOT THE FLU! Stay safe, distant and on high alert”.
Racing has been fortunate to continue, thanks to strict protocols being implemented and observed. Padraic’s case shows how vulnerable any of us is to contracting Covid-19, and with possible devastating health implications. The message is simple – observe the protocols, stay safe and keep others safe.
On Thursday Padraic returned home to continue his recovery.