College student Trish (21) tells of frightening brush with the virus

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the county, one girl knows better than most the reality of the deadly virus after enduring a ten-day battle in critical care at University Hospital Kerry.

Twenty-one-year-old Trish O’Shea is now, thankfully, recovering back home in Kilgarvan, and she issued an urgent appeal this week to young people and the general public to follow the public guidelines on COVID-19.

Trish and her family – including her beloved parents, Mary and Mike – have spent almost a month worrying after Trish contacted the virus while at college in Cork.

Many of her friends have also contracted it in a college setting, and it is understood that this is one of the reasons for a spike in Kerry cases over the past few weeks.

Like many her age, Trish didn’t believe it would come to her door, but the reality proved very different.

“It was a shock… I heard that one of the girls in Cork had it so I kind of expected it, but you think you are going to be fine,” she said. “I had just had a cough at first, but a few days after it got bad. Then I went to hospital, and I thought I would be out again in a day or two.”

Trish got a positive COVID-19 result on Friday, September 25. She had been in Cork the weekend previously and had gone to a pub and met a small group of friends there and also at a house. She then heard that one of the girls was not feeling well and was tested and subsequently received a positive result.

More than half of the group of approximately 10 who were in contact tested positive. Trish was back home in Kilgarvan by that stage, and rang her GP who referred her for a test. She too turned out to be positive.

Within days of the result, her condition worsened.

“By Sunday night and Monday morning, her breathing was starting to go. By Tuesday morning it was worse and the GP said to take her to the hospital, but then her breathing went totally, and we rang an ambulance,” recalls her mother, Mary.

The ambulance arrived within a half an hour, and Trish was rushed to University Hospital Kerry.

Nobody could go with her. Her mother, Mary, had to wait at home on news of the condition of her beloved daughter, due to the danger of the deadly virus.

Hours later, Mary got a call to say that Trish was to be put on a ventilator, such was the seriousness of her condition. She was in ICU at that stage and ‘exceptionally sick’.

Making matters worse, Mary could not be near her and had to support her via phone as the nurses prepared her for the ventilator.

Thankfully Trish’s condition improved in the following hours and days, and she did not have to be ventilated, but she remained in the critical care unit for some days.

“She was lucky. You read stories and you know about ventilation, but thanks be to God she didn’t have to. She was close, they were ready for it, but she recovered without it,” explained Mary. Those couple of days, until Trish was moved to a high-dependency unit, will not be forgotten for a long time to come: “It was unbelievable. I never experienced anything like it and I wouldn’t want any other family to go through it.”

Mary is pleading with everyone to follow the guidelines. Like many people across the country, they had begun to relax as cases were low, but then the deadly virus came to their door.

Trish can recall those days in hospital. She went from being a healthy young woman to being a “90-year old woman who couldn’t do anything for herself”.

“If I wanted to go to the bathroom, I had to get two nurses. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t do anything. It was a frightening experience,” she said.

Her message to young people is unequivocal: “Please be careful; a lot of young people think they will be grand, that is not the case. Please take care, wear your mask and wash your hands. I never thought it would affect me, but young people do get it.”

Though Trish does have a rare auto-immune disease that affects her glands, this was not considered a risk, and though it is still unknown why she became so sick, she says her experience demonstrates that it can come to anyone’s door.

Trish, Mary and the O’Shea family have raised funds for the ICU COVID Ward at University Hospital Kerry to say thanks for the wonderful care she received. The GoFundMe Page found at ‘ICU Covid Ward University Hospital Kerry’ was created by Trish’s sister, Karin, as a gesture say thanks for the nurses and doctors who looked after Trish so well.

“Every single member of staff was better than the next. When you experience yourself what they are doing… There are a lot of negatives out there but there are a lot of positives… You can’t actually believe it when it happens to you how good the staff are,” said Mary.

The hospital staff were the ones that supported the family and kept Trish’s parents and brother and sister, Eoin and Karin, updated on Trish’s progress daily. They also delivered everything she needed to her.

“It is awful that you can’t go in… You are depending on the nurses and they were so good,” Mary added.

Trish has also expressed her gratitude to the staff who did so much for her: “They were just brilliant,” she said.

Donations are still being accepted to the page and almost €1,500 has been raised to date. – News