Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: 'Overwhelming and emotional' to have mum home

Emma Louise Aiken and Collette McAfee Image copyright Emma Louise Aiken
Image caption Emma Louise Aiken said it is "just so good" to have her mum home

The daughter of a nurse left fighting for her life after contracting Covid-19 says it is "overwhelming and emotional" to have her mother back home.

Collette McAfee, who is 64 and a Type 2 diabetic, spent 26 days in intensive care with the virus, contracting it after coming out of retirement to help during the pandemic.

The nurse worked several 12-hour shifts in Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast, however it is not clear where she contracted coronavirus.

The home was taken over in May by independent provider Healthcare Ireland after it failed inspections by the regulatory body, the RQIA.

"I was just so proud of her wanting to go back and to help people," Emma Louise Aiken told Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.

Ms McAfee tested positive for Covid-19 on 15 May.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Ms McAfee worked shifts at Clifton Nursing Home

"At the time, because mum didn't have a cough, she didn't really have the common symptoms that people knew, I didn't think she was going to be so sick," said Ms Aiken.

"It got really bad."

Two days after being admitted to a ward, Ms Aiken was told her mother was being moved to intensive care.

'Pure fear, panic'

"On the Wednesday, [mum] phoned me, she was quite upset, she told me they were going to be taking her to intensive care," says Ms Aiken.

"Come 23:30 on the Wednesday evening the ward phoned me to say she had been put into an induced coma, on to a ventilator and moved to intensive care.

Image copyright McAfee family
Image caption Ms AcAfee spent 22 out of 26 days in intensive care on a ventilator

"I can't even put into words how I felt, pure fear, panic. Was I ever going to see my mum again?"

Ms McAfee remained on the ventilator for 22 days.

She returned home from hospital a week ago.

"It was absolutely amazing," says Ms Aiken.

"The day she got home from the hospital my brother and I went to pick her up and I was able to go into the ward.

"That was the first time I had properly seen her.

"It was just so overwhelming and emotional and we're just so proud of her for being able to get through this."

'No regrets'

Although still finding things tough, Ms Aiken said her mum is "doing well".

"It will take her quite a wee while to get back to normality but it's just so good to have her home, I can't describe it."

Ms Aiken said her mum has "no regrets" about returning to work, even though she contracted coronavirus.

The 38-year-old has been keen to get answers to her questions about infection control during the pandemic in nursing homes.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Ms Aiken held a meeting with Health Minister Robin Swann

She met with Health Minister Robin Swann privately and chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle at Stormont, where she put questions to them both.

A response to her questions has been sent to Ms Aiken, and representatives from the Belfast Trust have agreed to meet with both her and her mother.

The Belfast Trust said it fully understood and appreciated how difficult this situation had been and continued to be for Ms McAfee and her family.

"We wish her well in her recovery and look forward to meeting Ms McAfee and her family once she is in better health," it said.

The trust added it was "deeply grateful" and "indebted" to Ms McAfee and all her colleagues who have worked "in the most challenging of circumstances" during the pandemic.

BBC News NI has contacted Runwood Homes, which ran Clifton Nursing Home, for comment.

It has previously said that it follows Public Health Agency guidelines, and that staff "have continued to have access to an overstock of PPE, supplied by the trust as well as privately sourced, to help best protect everyone in the home".

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