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'I'm one of the lucky ones': Belfast solicitor speaks of Covid-19 recovery after 16-day coma

Niall Murphy spent 16 days in an induced coma, and another man Mark Burke was told he had 24 hours to live.

Niall Murphy's wife was told he had a 50/50 chance of recovery.
Niall Murphy's wife was told he had a 50/50 chance of recovery.

Updated Apr 23rd 2020, 3:30 PM

TWO MEN WHO have recovered from Covid-19 have described their respective times in hospital dealing with the disease.  

Niall Murphy, a partner at KRW Law, spent 16 days in an induced coma at Antrim Area Hospital.

Murphy is a well-known figure in the North who represents many families bereaved as a result of alleged state collusion with paramilitaries during the Northern Ireland conflict, including the Loughinisland pub shootings.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme, Murphy said that his wife was told at one stage that he only had a 50/50 chance of surviving. 

After arriving at the hospital after 12 days of being sick, he was placed on a ventilator within an hour and half. 

“I could see the nurse’s face when she put the oxygen level test on,” he said. 

Recovery

Murphy is now at home recovering. Describing himself as “weak, but healthy”, he said he counted himself lucky. 

“I’m out the other side of it and I’m going to recover fully with no lasting damages or effects so I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. 

He became unwell after returning from speaking at a St Patrick’s Day event in New York last month.

Tweet by @Gerry Kelly Source: Gerry Kelly/Twitter

After returning, he attended his daughter’s first confession and initially thought he was just suffering from jet lag. However, his condition soon started to deteriorate and he self-isolated at home. 

“I was bedridden. I’ve never really been sick before, but I was bedridden for 12 days with no appetite whatsoever,” he said. ”My temperature was uncontrollable.”

“The coughing bouts are indescribable. I just felt I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. It was something I’ve never experienced before.”

Murphy praised the support of medical staff in the hospital who treated him. ”I was immediately inspired by confidence from the second I was wheeled through the doors of the hospital,” he said. 

“I can’t be thankful enough to the genuine personal and professional care that I received,” he added. 

He described the long road to recovery, even after leaving ICU. “Being wheeled out, in my own head, never having been sick before, certainly never in ICU, I thought I was going to get dressed and go home here. And of course, that wasn’t the case. I had an extended period in a recovery ward,” Murphy said. 

“I couldn’t even cut a piece of toast,” he said. 

Murphy is now recovery, but emphasised the extent of his illness. ”It’s an awful time for everybody,” he said.

 

Mark Burke

A 47-year-old man who had pneumonia and double-organ failure after contracting Covid-19 recovered after weeks in hospital in Dublin. 

Speaking to Joe Duffy on RTÉ’s Liveline today, Mark Burke told of how he went from ICU to full recovery over the past month. 

On 24 March, he was admitted to hospital with a high fever and vomiting, but no cough or sore throat. He had no underlying health conditions and gave up smoking five years ago. 

A month later, Burke said he is “in recovery mode” after spending weeks in the Intensive Care Unit in St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin. At one point, his wife and children were told he had 24 hours to live. 

Burke says he has “no recollection” of anything between entering hospital and two days after he left ICU. 

“The fever must have gotten hold of me because I was two days in a ward and then I was straight in to ICU,” he said. 

“I don’t remember anything until about two days after I got out of ICU.”

His recovery was so stark that the hospital asked to release his medical records for research purposes to medical boards across the world. 

He ended up with double Covid pneumonia and he had a blood clot which led to bowel failure. 

“At one stage, I was on the verge of multiple organ failure,” he said. 

He got out of ICU two weeks ago tomorrow, and it only took him six days after leaving ICU to be released from hospital. 

His wife Joanne said she and their four children are “delighted to have him home”.  

She first drove him to the hospital a few days after he first showed symptoms as his condition worsened.  

“We weren’t sure if he had Covid or not, we were waiting on the test,” she said. Burke had been self-isolating since first showing any symptoms. 

“I had to drive very slowly because he was just in agony, absolute agony from his head to his toes. Shaking violently, the fever had taken hold of him… I had to stop the car twice for him to get sick” 

After getting to hospital, she was told Mark had double Covid pneumonia which gave her “a massive fright”. 

But I suppose because we heard that it’s the older generation and it’s underlying conditions, I was extremely confident that he was in the best place, he was going to be put on oxygen for a couple of days and he would be fine. 

“I thought he’s 47, no underlying conditions, he’s healthy, he’s going to fight it, he’ll be in hospital for a couple of days and they’ll make him better and he’ll come home. Little did I know,” she said.  

He was put into an induced coma and intubated. Mark’s pneumonia lingered for around eight or nine days. 

“His lungs were ravished with the Covid pneumonia,” Joanne was told by his doctors. 

After getting another scan, Joanne was told there was “basically nothing they could do” for Mark. She asked the health workers “if he was going to die, and they said it’s not looking good”. 

She was allowed to see him, escorted by gardaí at high speed to the hospital. 

“He was offered his last rites, it was just absolutely horrific,” she said. 

“Nobody knows how he turned around… When the kids walked in, he opened his eyes, he heard their voices.

As I say to my friends and stuff, if you saw it in a movie you wouldn’t believe it you would think that’s so far-fetched.

Mark said he has no memory of his time in hospital and “can’t physically or mentally put myself into that situation”. 

“I just can’t imagine what it was like for Joanne and the kids,” he said. 

After double organ failure of his bowel and lungs, Mark began to recover and eventually left ICU. He is now at home recovering fully with his family. 

With reporting from Press Association and Orla Dwyer 

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