A YOUNG and athletic Bantry trainee doctor says he’s lucky to be alive after contracting Covid-19 which left him with a damaged heart, lungs and kidneys.
Owen O’Flynn (23) unknowingly contracted the virus while working in Cork University Hospital (CUH) in March and said he was very scared when months later, he found himself in ICU.
‘I thought I might die,’ he said this week.
His only original symptom was loss of smell and taste which wasn’t a criteria for swabbing at that time.
But he fell seriously ill in mid-May and has now issued a warning to others – especially young people – that being fit and healthy doesn’t offer any protection against the virus.
Months after initial symptoms, he had a mild tummy pain while at home cooking dinner.
He then experienced a high fever and the next day developed pain in his joints and muscles.
‘My next symptom was a rash on my hands and the soles of my feet and on the Friday I started vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down. By Saturday I had diarrhoea, fever, chills and was very unwell but I was still doing my best to stay out of hospital.
‘By Sunday I was vomiting every hour but as my test had returned negative on Thursday, I still felt that I had viral gastroenteritis, even though that did not explain my rash.’
After being admitted to hospital, a lung test showed a rapidly progressive lesion which raised alarm bells. As is the case with many Covid patients, Owen rapidly deteriorated. Respiratory failure meant he couldn’t walk unaided, he was slipping between delirium and reality, because of fever, and he was feeling very frightened and emotional.
But luckily, after receiving expert medical care, he has now made a good recovery. ‘But I cannot stress how well I was. I played three sports – hurling, football and rugby. I had volunteered in Africa and we climbed Kilimanjaro and I was the first one up. I had no underlying conditions, I was never in hospital, I had perfect school attendance. It’s pot luck, there’s no way of knowing how your body will react and what happened me was that my immune system over-reacted.’