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'May we always remember them': Tributes to healthcare workers who died from Covid-19

Jim Kenny and Catherine Hickey worked in St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny.

Jim Kenny is one of two healthcare workers in Kilkenny who have died from Covid-19.
Jim Kenny is one of two healthcare workers in Kilkenny who have died from Covid-19.

Updated Apr 17th 2020, 2:03 PM

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to the two Kilkenny healthcare workers who died from Covid-19, who are among the 486 people who have sadly passed away with the virus in Ireland so far.

Jim Kenny and Catherine Hickey (née Whelan) were support workers at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny.

Jim was laid to rest yesterday in a private ceremony. His local GAA club St Patrick’s in Ballyragget described him as a “kind and true gentleman, a great support of all thing in the parish”. 

“He was a former player and manager and was always there to cheer on all teams in the club,” St Patrick’s said. 

In another tribute from the Erin’s Own GAA club, it said: “There will be a standing guard of honour with everyone minimum of 2 metres apart around the square where we have been asked to stand and applaud as a small measure of thanks to Jim for his courage and compassion.”

Those paying tribute to Catherine were universal in their description of her as a “true lady” who’ll be a massive loss to her family, friends and staff at St Luke’s. 

She had a “smile for everyone” and was already ready for a chat. A private funeral is taking place for Catherine today. 

Dr John Cuddihy, chairman of the integrated care committee at St Luke’s, told local radio station KCLR Live that Catherine and Jim “had been taken from us in a cruel, cruel way”. 

“On behalf of all of my medical colleagues, GP and hospital consultants, I just wish to express my deepest sympathies to the families of the two bereaved healthcare workers from St Luke’s,” he said.

Siptu members also expressed their condolences. Health division organiser Paul Bell said: “We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of our two deceased members.

The colleagues of these two workers as well as the members and staff of the Union’s health division are deeply shocked by their deaths. These workers have made the ultimate sacrifice while assisting in the fight against the Covid-19 virus.

Local TD John Paul Phelan said: “Our healthcare workers go above and beyond every single day to care for those impacted by COVID-19. We all see or hear the figures every evening and we all know of people in our commmunity who have been tested for or are recovering from the virus.

But a death in our community, particularly the death of two people who risked life and limb day after day to help others, is particularly hard to comprehend. I want to offer my heartfelt condolence to the families, the friends and the communities of the bereaved. We stand with them at this dark time.

The families of Jim Kenny and Catherine Hickey are just two of the hundreds of families who’ve lost a loved one to Covid-19 in Ireland.

The nation has been mourning those who have sadly passed away during the pandemic, but have largely been unable to attend funerals due to social distancing guidelines.

Instead, online resources such as Facebook and RIP.ie are being used to send condolences to the bereaved and pay tribute to the deceased.

On Twitter today, Fiona MacCarthy paid tribute to her uncle Father Frank Caffrey.

She said: “He was among the brave cohort of priests and nuns expelled from Nigeria for their efforts to feed and protect people from government forces during the Biafran war.

He baptised me, was the celebrant for our marriage, baptised all our children and played a hugely important part in our lives – he was a genuinely lovely man. He had a long & fulfilling life, but it’s hard not to be able to say goodbye properly.

In recent weeks, Liveline with Joe Duffy on RTÉ Radio One has regularly featured contributors paying tributed to loved ones who have died.

Yesterday, Thomas Gray told the show his mother Patricia Gray had died in a nursing home.

“The saddest thing is that she passed away on her own,” he said. 

Doreen Corrigan died on Good Friday and her daughter Gráinne told the Joe Duffy she’d attended her mother’s funeral via Skype. She said nursing homes are doing all they can to support residents during the crisis.

Their experience is one being felt by many other families during this crisis as around half of those who’ve died so far have died in nursing homes. 

The first deaths from the crisis were recorded last month. Broadcaster Andrew Louth paid tribute to his grandmother on 29 March in a thread on Twitter. He said: “None of her 14 grandchildren could see her in her final days. It should not have had to be this way. It should never have to be that way for any family, but for some it is.”

Today, Brian Connell described how his mother Angela died in the early hours this morning. He lives in New Jersey in the US and can’t get home to bid his mother farewell.

“It’s weighing on my mind that I can’t be there. Grieving and mourning is a process, I don’t quite know where to start it. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do [to travel],” he said. “It was the virus. She was diagnosed last Friday.”

Brian’s sisters were permitted access to their mother prior to her death, and two of them were with Angela when she passed.

On Tuesday, Dorothy Duffy spoke to Liveline about the passing of her sister Rose on 4 April and read out a poem she’d been moved to write.

Dorothy wrote the poem around the theme that “my sister is not a statistic” and told Joe Duffy that it was borne out of the “loss and frustration” of not being able to be around Rose’s children and grandchildren when she died. 

The closing section of the poem reads: 

They are not statistics on the Deathometer of Covid

They are the wives, mothers, children, fathers, sisters, brothers,
The layers of all our loved ones
If she could, believe me when I say, she would hold every last one of your loved ones, croon
to and comfort them and say – you were loved.
Whilst we who have been left behind mourn deep, keening the loss, the injustice, the rage.
One day we will smile and laugh again, we will remember with joy that, once, we shared a
life, we knew joy and survived sadness.

You are my sister…….. and I love you.

If you’d like to include a tribute to a loved one who has passed from Covid-19, please email sean@thejournal.ie

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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