Donegal's Andrew Wallace speaks out after recovering from Covid
Donegal Gael Andrew Wallace is very clear, he is not looking for sympathy.
The elite athlete and legendary Donegal and Burt hurler said he detailed his recent experience of Covid-19 in the hope it might change “one person's attitude” or help “someone's health”.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Andrew who lives in Bridgend with his wife Karen, daughter Aoibhínn and son Cianán, said he wrote his blog post, 'The long road back', his first in more than a year, as a “wake up call, to get a message out”.
“At this stage, everybody is sick of this thing,” said Andrew, “but, it is real,” he emphasised.
“What I went through was not nice but there are people out there who were a whole lot worse than me.
“At the start it was all about old people and those with underlying health conditions being vulnerable and the need to protect them. The fit and healthy people, like myself, were always, 'If I get it I'll be grand. I am a fit and healthy man, I'll not have a problem.' But it is a big problem. It was a wake up call for me and I think it should be a wake up call for everybody at this stage.
“Just because you are fit and healthy doesn't mean Covid-19 is not going to take you down. This thing doesn't care who you are or what you are.
“Here I am, fit and healthy and totally respecting the regulations since March last year. I hardly left the house. Yet, bang, there I am, stuck in hospital for a night and thank God it was only one night.
“The staff in Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) were brilliant. I couldn't say enough good things about them. People are complaining if they are sitting for eight hours in the Emergency Department but it is not fault of the hospital staff. It it is the people who are in Governments fault. It is the HSE's fault,” said Andrew.
On reflection, Andrew said in the middle of last year he did not know anyone who had Covid-19.
“You were in lockdown,” he said. “Now, every second person you are talking to has had it.”
“On Monday, December 28, I started getting sore heads. These were blasting sore, not your normal type, so once Tuesday arrived, I called the doctor, no messing, I needed to know. It was Thursday evening before I got my test and by then, the sore heads were unbearable and no pain relief worked, no matter how much I took.
“The smell and taste was starting to go also but my spirits were good and I was eating away and it wasn't too bad, other than the sore heads, just as described by most who had it. I got my positive test on Saturday as expected so it was just batten down and ride it out really.
“By Monday again, things had started to take a turn for the worse. I was no longer eating and, even worse, not drinking. My stomach was in bits so I phoned the doctor just to see if they could help. They prescribed me tablets, although I'm not sure they actually worked for me.
“I was now sweating relentlessly every night and I think it was Wednesday evening when I said I was away to bed again as I didn't feel good. For the next 15 minutes I shook uncontrollably. I was freezing cold and couldn't breathe properly. Thankfully it was short and I felt OK after. Another night of sweats led to Thursday night and, the kicker. I spent that night shivering and breathing heavy. There was little sleep but eventually, some time that morning, I fell over,” said Andrew.
Karen woke Andrew at 9am saying, 'Keep that phone beside you, your getting a call from the doctor'.
The call came shortly after and Andrew was sent straight to the community assessment hub in Letterkenny, just above the Covid-19 Test Centre.
One of the nurses there asked Andrew if he was a fitness freak. When he replied yes, she replied ominously, 'The Covid loves you fitness freaks at the moment'.
Handed a letter and told to go to the LUH Emergency Department, Andrew spent the day getting x-rays, bloods and other tests done.
He recalled: “It was late by the time I saw the doctor but she said, 'listen all is good, you can breathe on your own and we need the beds for those who can't breathe on their own'.
“I was delighted with that until she added, 'However, I still need to see your bloods, so you are going nowhere yet. Hold tight and we'll hopefully get you on your way soon'. I was called back in shortly after by the same doctor. 'I know you don't want to hear this,' she said, 'but I need to admit you, one of your bloods is reading 5 (0.05 being normal) so we are worried about blood clots right now, which is another side-effect of Covid-19'.
“My heart sank. How can this be happening to me? I'm the fit and healthy one, why am I not sailing through this? I go back out and sit down, tears in my eyes. We all know blood clots equal strokes or heart attacks.
“I get called again by the triage nurse who gives me two injections into my stomach. She says that's to thin my bloods until I get a CT scan the next day. I finally got a bed about 11.30pm and settled down for the night. It's another normal night, bed soaking in the morning, with sweat but I did sleep pretty well,” said Andrew.
Following a scan, which was clear, Andrew was discharged from LUH. His appetite having returned, he was told by his doctor, 'That's the turn you were looking for. You should see everyday get better from here on'.
According to Andrew, the doctor was right.
He said: “Every day since, I have felt stronger. But the sweats continued, finally stopping on Tuesday, January 12, just over two weeks after I got infected.
“I am out walking again, now. I am doing 2.5 kilometres every night. I don't feel fit enough to do more than that and I am also scared and apprehensive as to when I could go for a run or a cycle again. I keep thinking I might make things worse.
I might seek medical advice because I am at the stage now were I would love to cycle for 20 minutes or half an hour before I could run. Cycling would not be as taxing as running. I would just go out for a wee peddle and see what my heart rate and breathing was like when I came home. I did have a rake of races planned for this year but they might not even take place now.
“People need to respect the families of people who have passed away and stop saying, 'How do you know if they died of covid at all?'
“This is real, very real. It is dangerous. Too many people have passed away because of it. People are and will be sick for a long time with this. My story is peanuts compared to most but I can only tell my own story. I would say to anyone reading this, please do not be getting slack because you are young and fit,” said Andrew.
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