Sinead McGowan is 32 and lives in Newcastle. She works as a care coordinator, community psychiatric practitioner and has recently trained to be a Covid-19 vaccinator. Although she hasn’t contracted the Covid-19 virus yet, her brother suffered terribly at the start of the pandemic and she doesn’t want anyone else to have to go through what he had to go through.
“Working in a healthcare setting gives me a unique perspective on the pandemic. I knew early on that this virus wasn’t going away and was serious - especially after witnessing what my brother went through.
“In March 2020, my healthy, 33-year-old brother was suffering from abdominal pain. The whole family took him to A&E three times in the space of a few days. On the third visit (where he was put on a stretcher immediately as he couldn’t walk), a chest x-ray confirmed that he had pneumonia caused by Covid-19 and spent three weeks in hospital with a stint in ICU.
“At 6’7” and very healthy, we didn’t ever think a virus would affect him like it did. I have never seen him so poorly. He was delirious and kept asking for our mum. When he was in the ICU, the doctors told him that his kidneys were failing.
“With me working in care plus the restrictions, I couldn’t visit him once he was finally admitted to hospital and I don’t think I slept for two weeks with worry. I kept thinking the hospital would call with the worst news imaginable.
“It is only by the grace of God that he is still with us today. He has permanent lung damage but we are all very grateful that he is still with us.
“What made everything more intense for me personally at that time was I had only just started working full time again following a period of long term sickness. Given I wasn’t allowed to see him and my Dad was on the shielding list because of COPD, it was tasked to me to do all grocery shopping for my brother and his family, my parents and of course, do my own. It was such a traumatic, draining experience - one I won’t forget.
“Working in the NHS you see in real time the effects that this pandemic has had. It’s difficult. I can’t see patients who are experiencing ill mental health face to face so it’s much harder to assess if they are truly feeling okay or not. The quicker we all get vaccinated and start living with Covid, the quicker we can get those in need the proper help they need.
“As soon as the vaccine was approved, I knew my whole family would all be keen to get jabbed. I’ve now had three vaccinations (two AstraZeneca and one Pfizer) and luckily my side effects were non-existent.
“I didn’t have any concerns when getting vaccinated. I wanted to protect my family, friends, colleagues and of course, patients who I see day in day out.
“People really shouldn’t underestimate the impact that this virus can have, it almost killed my brother. It’s so simple to go and get vaccinated and the vaccine is proven to reduce symptoms and hospitalisations. It has saved lives.
“Some people don’t have the vaccine because they don’t want a foreign substance in them or they think that they are fit and healthy so they can handle Covid if they get it - but they are wrong. It’s real, it’s here, my brother almost died!
“I will continue to get vaccinated so long as we have to. I would much rather have mild symptoms from a vaccine for a couple of days than transmit Covid to anyone and I encourage everyone to do the same.”