- From frontline to first-time dads, and others who have tragically lost a parent to Covid-19, four men tell Ciara McDonnell how they’ll mark Father’s Day:
As well as parenting their four children, Neil and his wife Avril are nurses. Their home life changed dramatically as Covid-19 neared Irish shores.
“I am lucky enough to have four children aged 12, 13, 14 and 24. I am a clinical facilitator in the Emergency Department at Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore, which is a role that is based on providing educational support for the staff.
"Working during the last number of months has been really strange, not just for me but for everyone.
"Most of the time I think I have felt very anxious. We saw the situation with Covid-19 evolve in China and slowly it spread to Europe.
"Knowing it was so close to us, it was such a strange feeling that it was coming for us, but not knowing when. In the back of our minds of course we were hoping that it wasn't coming because we have been through H1N1 and the SARS pandemic which thankfully didn't touch our shores.
"It is really important for me to acknowledge that there have been loads of frontlines across the country who have been dealing with just as much anxiety as us whilst not being as well protected.
"These people are working in nursing homes, supermarkets and all the involved with distribution and essential services - without them keeping our social structure going would have been absolute chaos.
"As a parent it has been really tricky. My wife is a nurse as well and in early March we made a decision that we needed to socially distance from each other and from the children to a degree.
"We had to minimise the risk of both of us becoming sick and the additional stress of worrying about finding people to mind our children.
"The worst thing is the anxiety of it all. Not knowing what is coming and always being aware of the worst-case scenario and how you as a family will deal with it given your resources and situation.
"It's hard to explain but like all families we have found a way of carrying on. The day-to-day of life continues to go on like the kids still need to do their online schoolwork but we don't have the same interaction.
"We don't have the same cuddles; we haven't been sitting down to eat together like we used to.
"At times it has felt like it was never-ending but thankfully with the positive developments we are seeing, we are slowly starting to come back to some kind of normal.
"My children have been brilliant. People complain about social media and the influence it can have on teenagers but for my kids it has been a Godsend.
"We live in a rural location well outside the travel restrictions so having the likes of WhatsApp and all the social media platforms that they can use has given them the opportunity to communicate with their friends and extended which is so important.”
On March 29, Dominic’s father John passed away as a result of contracting Covid 19. The 82-year-old had been residing at Tara Winthrop nursing home in Swords along with his wife Nell, at the time.
“My Dad John was a lovely man. He was one of those guys who people loved to be around.
There are five kids in the family; I'm the eldest and there are two girls and two more boys then. It has been a very difficult time since Dad died. It has felt almost like we are suspended in time. Grief is a funny thing.
I sometimes feel like I am cheating it, because I have periods where I feel fine, but a few people have told me that there is no strict regime to dealing with the death of a loved one. Dad was in a nursing home and he had Parkinson’s and mild dementia and all the things that old people have and death was inevitable eventually. I say this because I can't say that his passing was a shock, as such.
However, the way it happened in the end, really was. My Mum actually got Covid-19 first and we were all worried about her and then Dad got it and it felt like as soon as we heard he had the virus, he was gone. It all happened so quickly.
The day before his funeral the directive that only ten people could attend a funeral came out, and we had to suddenly mobilise with zoom calls and Google Meet to arrange who was going to attend. In the end, there were only a few people at Dad's funeral, whereas in normal circumstances, there would have been hundreds. We have put off celebrating his life until this is over and we can be with those who loved him and love us.
He loved singing and he had a few songs that when we got together as a group he would perform. He was very popular as a singer - when you got together for a few pints and a bit of craic, John McGroddy would definitely be singing a few songs by the end of the night. He was great fun, he loved his golf, and he loved company and the pint. When I've been thinking of Dad during this time I have found myself singing songs and recording them and putting them on Facebook. It's a way for me to connect with something that reminds me of him, and it gives me comfort. We are all coping as well as we can.”
Former Munster rugby centre Tom Gleeson has been working as a doctor at Mercy Hospital throughout the pandemic. With a 16-month-old daughter at home, life has changed dramatically.
“I work in the emergency department at The Mercy and have been there since July. I'll be starting in the ED at CUH next year as part of the GP scheme.
"I was accepted into the scheme last year and I am thrilled because ultimately, I want to work as a GP. Over the last number of weeks, we have noticed a big pick up in people coming back into the emergency department with a variety of issues, and it is giving something of a sense of normality.
"My wife Wailam and I decided at the beginning of this whole thing that the best thing for us to do would be to take it day by day. It was new for everyone and there was a lot of anxiety around the place about what life at home and of course, life at work would look like for those of us in the medical profession.
"Our daughter Ellura is sixteen months old now and had just started running around. A month before everything kicked off, she had just started in childcare and she had started to settle and socialise with other children. Of course, this all came to a very abrupt end.
"We were also living with my in-laws and we came to a decision that because of my job we should move away from them. They would be classed in a high-risk group and it was very difficult for me to be faced with the possibility of passing it onto them.
"Wailam is a fund accountant and had just started a new job, so she has been managing work and Ellura in a new house while I am gone a lot of the time, so logistically I think it has taken its toll. Of course, there is the whole health aspect and the potential of bringing infection home, there is no denying that it has been a very stressful time for us and for so many families.
"The thing is, looking at Ellura, you see the positive side to this whole situation. We get to see her lots more, and I'm sure that's the same for families across the country.
"It has been undoubtedly difficult, but I think it's really important to find the positive side. As difficult as it is, being able to spend time with Ellura when I'm not working, and she would usually have been in creche has been the greatest gift of this time.”
Brendan and his partner Ciara McCarthy celebrated the arrival of their son Conn in May, almost two months early.
"My partner Ciara’s waters broke on Tuesday May 12, seven weeks early. We had both been working from home since early March and we were getting on fine in our little bubble, Ciara was having an ‘easy pregnancy’ (her words not mine) up until then with no morning sickness and everything going according to plan.
When we got to Holles Street I was expecting something out a movie with nurses and doctors waiting at the door with a gurney. That didn’t happen, there was a makeshift desk about 3 foot inside the main door and a porter asked us what we were there for?
"I told him our situation and he asked us if we had any Covid-19 symptoms, when we said no he asked us to sanitise our hands and go to admissions down the hall. From there Ciara was brought to the labour ward and I was sent back outside. That was pretty tough, Ciara was obviously scared and I couldn’t even stand helplessly beside her, I had to go and wait in the car.
"It was about a four hours before Ciara text me to say she wasn’t in labour. There was a very good chance Ciara would go into labour very soon but if she made it a few hours it was less likely. I had to leave the hospital knowing that Ciara would have to stay there until our baby arrived.
"I found it very hard not seeing Ciara during that time. I had to drop everything she needed at the door of the hospital. We video called each other but it’s so strange not being with your partner when they are going through something so huge for the first time.
"Six days later, Conn ended up arriving by emergency section. I only got to hold him for a minute and then he was whisked away.
"We were told he was healthy but since he was premature he would have to spend a few days in the ICU. I was able to stay with Ciara for an hour in the recovery room but after that, I had to leave both of them again and go home on my own.
"It was another six days until I saw both of them. I was allowed in to collect Conn and put him in the car seat for his trip home. He was six days old when I got to see him for the second time. It didn’t really hit me until I saw him again. Ciara had been in the hospital for ten nights so she couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital but all I wanted to do was sit in the hallway and look at him.
"We thought we were going to be through the worst of the pandemic by the time Conn arrived, how wrong we were!
"Everyone told us that we were lucky in a way as people wouldn’t be calling over to us all the time when we are in the middle of feeding or when we are trying to sleep, but we would love that right now.
"We want to show him off and go for a walk and do all the normal things. We had our parents over to our garden to see him but they had to stay two metres away and wear masks so it definitely was a unique experience.
"Before the pandemic I thought I would be an easy-going dad that didn’t clean every surface that the baby touched, instead I’m cleaning everything that comes within two metres of the house!
"Conn isn’t meant to be here until the 25th so I am getting my first Father’s day a year early, and that’s enough for me."