A Cork woman whose father died after contracting Covid-19 has warned of the horror of the disease and is begging people not to break the lockdown rules now.
Caitríona Hynes has been unable to hug her family since they lost GAA fan and family man James Hynes to Covid-19 on March 31 and four of her immediate family could not go to his burial.
"Until it hits your own doorstep and you see someone taken so cruelly it’s hard to really understand how awful this can be," Caitríona, a special needs assistant from Bishopstown, Cork, said. “It’s like you’re living through a chapter of a horror story. It’s so surreal.
“When I hear of people out and flouting the social distancing restrictions it makes me angry. The more people break the rules now the more it will spread.
"People only see the numbers on the news of how many people have died. But behind those numbers are real people with real families left behind."
Mr Hynes was 79 when he died. He had been very active - often at the Bishopstown GAA club or playing golf.
He was in Lanzarote with his wife, son and daughter-in-law when the pandemic struck, leaving him stranded as flights were cancelled. Caitríona got him on a flight back on St Patrick’s Day but days after he returned, while he was self-isolating at home after travel, he developed a cough.
“He said ‘I can feel something in my chest and I can’t get it up.’ That was the Wednesday,” Caitríona said. By Sunday evening, they had to call an ambulance.
“The care he was given by the ambulance crew and later in Cork University Hospital was brilliant. I can’t praise them enough,” Caitríona said.
"The night he was admitted we were told that if it came down to it, he would not be a candidate for ventilation. I knew that the end of the road was probably coming. I didn’t want him to go but I didn’t want him to suffer either.”
Visitor restrictions meant the family could not visit Mr Hynes, but CUH staff called with updates both day and night and told them he had tested positive for Covid-19.
“He went into hospital on Sunday and on Monday evening they called us to come and say goodbye.
"Mum went in and then I got 10 minutes with him as well. We had to wear gloves, glasses, a mask and gloves but we could still talk to him.
“I was very lucky to have that time. He was very tired and was breathing very heavily.
“I said, ‘all you need to know is that I’m here, we love you, we love you so very much.’
“That was 8.30pm on Monday and he died on Tuesday at 8.30pm. One of the hardest things we’ve had to deal with as a family is that no one was with him when he passed.”
Mr Hynes had no church funeral. His wife, daughter and two of his sons were not permitted at the burial as three of them had been a close contact and one son could not travel from Donegal.
“He was buried at 4pm on Wednesday. It was so quick. We weren’t allowed to dress him ourselves or even send clothes. He was put in a body bag in the coffin. No one got to see him," Caitríona said.
“My dad couldn’t be brought to church and myself and my mum couldn’t go to the graveyard.
“We stood outside the house when the hearse drove past.
“Our neighbours and players from our GAA club lined the streets of our estate and stood out along the road and in the carpark of the graveyard, all socially distanced. It was comforting to know that people were there with us, thinking about him.
“My brother and sister-in-law Facetimed us from the burial.
“There’s been a lack of closure that I think you would get from going to a removal. Seeing the coffin would be hard but it makes you accept what’s happened."