“I Had Completely Convinced Myself That This Was Just A Chest Infection”


RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live last night with the host (above) and Professor Sam McConkey (right) and Dr Matthew O’Toole

On RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live last night.

Ms Byrne, broadcasting live from her shed, told viewers that she had tested positive for coronavirus at the weekend.

A week ago, on the evening of March 16, Ms Byrne broadcast from the same location as she had been showing symptoms and was self-isolating.

Last night she said her symptoms had since “abated” and added “I’m not too bad at all actually”.

Ms Byrne said:

“Now I told you last week that I had gone into self-isolation because I was displaying some symptoms at the time. It was symptoms of a head cold that I thought I had.

“Since then I’ve been tested and that result was positive for Covid-19 and I’m one of the now 1,125 people in Ireland with coronavirus and as we learned today sadly two more people have died, bringing to six the number of lives claimed by this disease.

“And when we hear about those deaths, that’s what makes us all feel so worried and so anxious about this.

“So tonight what I want to do is to tell you about what happened to me over the last week. So I was here last week, I was talking to you, I was telling you about the symptoms I had of a head cold that my GP had referred me for a test.

“And really at that stage I had a head cold, I suspected maybe I was moving into chest infection territory but what threw me when I was thinking about the symptoms of Covid-19 and what I had was that I had no temperature at any stage.

“And because we’ve been talking about this so much on the programme, I was very much aware to keep checking my temperature and I checked my temperature three times a day, every day, and there was never a spike in my temperature.

So at that point last week I thought ‘this is a head cold, maybe a chest infection but no more’. Anyway, off I went from my test when I was called. I drove into a HSE facility which hadn’t been used for a while, and had been reopened as a test centre and a nurse came out in the full protective gear out to my car.

“She gave me a mask, she told me to put it on, she took my details, ticked me off a list and came back a few minutes later and brought me into the centre.

“So the first thing I did was clean my hands with the alcohol, then went in, sat down, was told that I would be asked a couple of questions and I was, about where I had been and what my symptoms were and so on.

“Then I had the swabs done. I had a swab taken inside my throat on the left side and on the right side and one in the nasal passage and that was it, I was free to go .

“And you know when I was leaving the test centre, I felt really comforted because the nurses in there were so professional, they were so calm and they took me through the process with a smile really and they were very warm.

“So off I went thinking that was absolutely painless and then I went and waited for my results. Now, over the course of the next couple of days, the symptoms got a little bit worse.

The cough that I had became much more ingrained, it was a productive cough, it was very hard to get rid of it or to deal with it and then I had the aching limbs, very much aching limbs, tiredness, real fatigue and I’ve three children here so you can’t really succumb to that when you’re in that position.

“Anyway, the worst thing for me or the worst moment, and I was looking back over some contemporaneous notes I made about this over the course of the week. For three successive nights, I was in bed with that hacking cough and I began to notice that I was becoming breathless and I started to worry about that.

It was all in the upper respiratory area, it wasn’t down in my chest. I was quite congested but I was definitely getting to the point where I was struggling for breath.

“Now it didn’t get so severe that I felt I needed to call an ambulance or even close but I know for some people that would be very distressing. For me, it wasn’t that bad but it was definitely an issue.

“So when I hear about shortness of breath being one of the symptoms, I for sure experienced that myself.

So then I got the result and I was told that I had Covid-19 and I can’t tell you what that’s like. It’s so shocking, particularly when you don’t expect it and even at that point, I had completely convinced myself that this was just a chest infection.

“So when I was told I had Covid-19, I was really shocked.

“And then I went into guilt mode because I felt how many people have I given this to, that was my big concern. Obviously I had been self-isolating for quite some time and following all of the guidelines but there’s always in the back of my mind that thought, ‘well before I had symptoms was I giving this condition to other people and who were those people’. And you’re going through the list.

“So I felt guilty, I felt shocked and I felt worried and I sat down once I had processed a little bit and I began to make my contact list out. And it’s really important to do this and I’ll tell you why in just a moment. But I wrote down all of the people who I had spoken to for more than 15 minutes or who had been closer that two metres to me for more than 15 minutes and I did that in detail and then the next day that came into its own.

“The first call you have is from the HSE, they explain about your diagnosis and what you need to do now and continue with your self-isolation and all of that. And then the next call you get is the contact tracing call.

“And that’s where somebody  from the army phones you, in my case, and they ask you who you’ve been in contact with since your first symptom.

“Now what I did when I was making my list out, I had actually written down who I’d been in contact with from a few days before my first symptom. But they need phone numbers as well, they need names and they need phone numbers. So if you’re in that position and you get the positive test, it’s a good idea to sit down and to write down all of those details so you have that to hand and you can go through it with them

And here we are. Thankfully my symptoms now have abated. I’m not too bad at all actually. I think I’m through the worst of it and that shortness of breath is gone and the day before yesterday, when I woke up, I didn’t have the aching limbs so I feel I’ve been through the peak of Covid-19 in my case and I’ve very glad about that.”

Watch back in full here

Last night: Sick Byrne

20 thoughts on ““I Had Completely Convinced Myself That This Was Just A Chest Infection”

  1. Slightly Bemused

    While this was a quite extensive telling, I found it very useful. Knowing what to expect at each stage of the testing can be comforting to people who do not know what is happening and may be in shock. This was very matter of fact, even in her recounting her symptoms and her personal feelings.

    One issue I have is so far all the recent testing I have heard is of at centres you need to drive to. I wonder if they will send an crew as before if someone has no mode of transport?

  2. White Dove

    Really extraordinary how two RTE stars have already been diagnosed given that
    (i) there are so few people with the virus yet and
    (II) even people who think they have it can’t get tested.

      1. Otis Blue

        Kathryn Thomas, who featured in a puff piece interview with a Byrne, also has the same agent.

        Of course, if you wanted to gain an insight into making staff redundant and the hardship and difficulty facing small businesses Kathryn Thomas would be the first to spring to mind, wouldn’t she?

        1. Slightly Bemused

          I also noted in that interview that while she said she felt a bit under the weather, she did not say whether or not she had reported to her GP for testing.

  3. broadbag

    Fair play to her, decent bit of public service broadcasting from Claire all the same – as to how she got tested, 1,000s have been tested and she said she was waiting a few days and probably would have been one of the earlier requests when it wasn’t as swamped as now, doubt there’s any preferential treatment at all.

    1. Slightly Bemused

      I would agree on the testing. It was only after the HSE opened the online form for the GPs to request a test that the flood gates opened, and the current backlog developed. If I recall correctly, Claire of the Lamp reported from her shed the day before that came online, so her request was likely already in.

  4. shortforbob

    “struggling for breadth”
    “shortness of breadth”

    makes a change from RTE struggling to have any depth.

    [Edit: Broadsheet may have fixed the multiple typos by the time you read this]

    1. Slightly Bemused

      Oh, I don’t know. I definitely suffer from shortness of breadth. With my breadth I should be at least a foot less short :-)

  5. Ringsend Incinerator

    If they have written confirmation they have it; it would be very useful for Byrne, Kelly to redact the personl bits and share the notes on social media so the rest of us can be prepared….

    1. V

      + V

      I’ve already adopted an “I have it” status
      But I’m asymptomatic at the moment

      Seriously – try it out yerselves
      It really does coerce your behaviour

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