Prominent Belfast lawyer and campaigner Niall Murphy has paid tribute to the medical staff who helped save his life after he became infected with the Coronavirus.
There had been widespread shock that the father-of-three was placed in an induced coma and put on a ventilator after contracting Covid-19.
The 43-year-old has now left hospital where he spent almost a month, including 16 days in a coma, after being admitted on March 25.
A partner at KRW Law, Mr Murphy has been involved in several high profile justice campaigns in recent years and is a leader of the Ireland’s Future, which works for constitutional change.
He believes he may have picked up the virus while travelling in early March, when he became quickly bedridden with temperatures as high as 40C.
“The coughing bouts are indescribable,” he said. “I just felt I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. It was something I’ve never experienced before.”
ICU staff applauded as he was wheeled out of intensive care to continue his recovery earlier this month. As Mr Murphy was reunited with his wife family this week, he had a special word of praise for the health workers who cared for him.
“My mother would have a very strong faith and prayed that my bed would be guarded by angels,” he said. “And it was, by the doctors, nurses, physios and staff of the NHS.”
Mr Murphy said “as society a society we should be ashamed of ourselves as to how we treat and resource the NHS.
“These people are the equivalent of the firemen who rushed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 yet we have asked them to confront this crisis with insufficient [personal protection equipment],” he said.
“That’s a disgrace. We should be ashamed at the fact that nurses had to strike in the darkness of winter for pay parity.”
He revealed how close he came to death during his ordeal, when he was given a 50/50 chance of recovery.
“I was in a coma for 16 days and was obviously oblivious to everything but the hardest toll was carried by family. I’m only now coming round to appreciate the danger I was in but my wife and family had to live with it in real time.”
He also said there should have been a quicker response to the virus.
“The lockdown should have happened sooner. We are an island at the end of the day, we are best placed to enforce things like a lockdown. We find ourselves where we are so we just need to continue as we are going.”