A Limerick GAA fan who survived a gruelling five-month hospital battle with Covid-19 wore a winning smile after being surprised with the Liam MacCarthy All Ireland winning cup on a emotional return to the hospital.
Mike Moloney, from Knockaderry spent 21 weeks at University Hospital Limerick. This week, he and his family completed a symbolic 1km walk to the hospital to thank the staff who nursed him back from the brink. There, he joined the hospital’s chief executive Colette Cowan, and head of intensive care Dr Catherine Motherway.
Mr Moloney also thanked nursing and rehab staff attached to St Ita's Hospital, Newcastle West, where he spent a further eight weeks.
Mr Moloney was left fighting for his life after he was struck down with the virus last April, spending almost five weeks on a ventilator due to the impact on his lungs, as well as enduring numerous complications, including pneumonia, sepsis and organ failure.
One year on, a 1km walk was the final leg of an extraordinary 21 fundraising marathons – one for every week of Mike's hospital stay – that Mike's son Chris Moloney and daughters Sinead Moloney and Fiona Meehan, completed since they stuck on their jogging gear last February.
“The teams at UHL never gave up on Dad, they fought so hard to get him back home to our mam, Kay. We organised the marathons to do something to acknowledge all they did for Dad, and for everyone during this pandemic," said Mike’s daughter Fiona.
"We wanted to raise money for the units so that the many wonderful staff we met along the way would benefit,” she added.
The walk to UHL this Monday was organised by the Moloney-Meehan family with the support of the UL Hospitals Group's Patient Advocacy Liaison Service (PALS), who organised a COVID-compliant reunion within the hospital grounds to host the family as they made their special acknowledgements to the staff.
“When I think back to this time last year, things were very bad,” said Mr Moloney.
“I had just returned to UHL from Dublin where I'd been transferred for surgery to place two valves in my right lung. Although I was back in Limerick, I still had eight weeks of rehabilitation ahead of me at St Ita's in Newcastle West, and it has been a long road to recovery since then, but now I am back walking every day, I have started cycling, and I have also managed to play a little golf as well.”
“This time last year, I couldn't even walk. I owe all of this to the staff at UHL, and to my physiotherapists Fiona Burke and Emma Enright and staff, they put me on the road to recovery. It has taken all of this time, but by starting off doing a little bit, building it up gradually, and always pushing myself to do a little more, it has brought me to where I am.”
Mr Moloney also thanked his carers for ensuring he and his family kept in contact while he was in isolated from them, via video and phone calls, “which was a great reassurance to them when they were unable to visit me”.
"I still have a long way to go, but so many other people have not been so fortunate as me, and I could not praise the staff enough,” he said.
One of the highlights of his return journey to UHL was the arrival of recently retired Limerick hurling legend Shane Dowling with the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
"It was a complete surprise and it was a lovely touch from Shane to bring the cup along after all he has contributed to Limerick hurling over the years," said Mr Moloney, who celebrated his 72nd birthday with loved ones last Friday.