Former Cliftonville FC coach Harry Fay pleads with people to stay at home as he recovers from 'severe bout' of coronavirus

Former football coach Harry Fay has revealed his experience after becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. He is self-isolating along with his family after being discharged from hospital
Seanín Graham

A FORMER Cliftonville football coach has spoken publicly for the first time of his harrowing experience after contracting coronavirus – and to plead with young people to stay indoors.

Portadown man Harry Fay (57), who has no underlying health condition and runs six miles twice a week, was told by medics his fitness “saved him” after being admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital thinking he was having a heart attack.

The father-of-four, who played for Newry Town FC during the 1980s and was regarded as one of the best players of his era, also singled out frontline staff who put themselves at risk – as some did not have access to masks due to supply shortages.

“When nurses are coming through double doors dressed in what can only be described as astronaut suits and are feeding you and looking after you, you realise those people are putting their lives on the line. They couldn’t do enough for you, they’re angels,” he told The Irish News.

Mr Fay, who has five grandchildren, became unwell a week ago after he returned home from work in a garage, which has since been deep cleaned.

“I woke in the middle of night with a burning temperature. Within half an hour I rang 111 and they told me to self-isolate,” he said.

“The next day I took a tightness in my chest. I went to bed that night and you would have sworn somebody had thrown eight buckets of water over the bed. I have never sweated like it.

“Last Friday the chest pain became excruciating. I rang 111 again and they told me to ring 999.

“Paramedics got kitted up before they came into the house – they had to give me morphine to sedate the pain.”

An ambulance crew took him to Craigavon’s A&E department where blood tests were carried out but did not show the virus.

Testing criteria changed in the north a fortnight ago, with no more community testing. You must be admitted to a hospital bed to be swabbed for the virus.

“They gave me paracetamol after the bloods were taken. The doctor came in and said he was going to send me home. I told him I felt really unwell and kept asking him to test me for coronavirus,” Mr Fay explained.

“The doctor said he couldn’t as the government directive was to only test patients who were admitted.”

As he was getting up from an A&E bed, Mr Fay collapsed. 

He remembers “waking up on his back” looking at a masked nurse doing the swab test.

He was placed on an isolation ward and within 24 hours learned he had tested positive. His wife was told to self-isolate as she cares for her sister who has an underlying health condition.

“My father died at 66 of a sudden heart attack and I thought this is what is happening to me,” he said.

“Doctors carried out ECGs and my heart was fine. They said I got a severe bout of the virus and my fitness stood to me. They said anyone with any health complications wouldn’t have come out of it.

“There is going to be a deluge, an absolute deluge of cases if young people don’t heed the advice. The place is shutting down – it’s what we have to do.”

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