How Laois woman and RTÉ's Claire Byrne told her Covid-19 story to the nation

Coronavirus: Laois native and RTÉ broadcaster shares her own experience

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly

coronavirus covid-19

Laois native Claire Byrne of RTÉ

“I felt guilty, I felt shocked and I felt worried”.

Those were the words used by Mountrath woman Claire Byrne on RTÉ last Monday week when she returned to co-present her Claire Byrne Live programme from her garden shed at her home.

RTÉ confirmed the same day that she had tested positive for Covid-19. She also broadcast from home the previous week when she confirmed she was waiting for test results.

“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 have been tested and that result was positive for Covid-19. I am now one of the 1,125 (Monday, March 23) people in Ireland with coronavirus,” she said.

On the day she revealed her infection a sixth person had died.

“When we hear about those deaths that is what makes us feel so worried and so anxious about this,” she said.

Claire explained her own experience. She said her GP referred her for a test after she got a head cold and suspected she was moving towards a chest infection.

“What threw me when I was thinking about the symptoms of Covid-19 was that I had no temperature at any stage.

“Because we have been talking about this so much on the programme I was very much aware to keep checking my temperature. I checked my temperature three times a day every day and there was never a spike in my temperature. At that point last week I thought this is a head cold, maybe a chest infection but no more.

“Anyway, off I went for my test when I was called. I drove to a HSE facility which hadn't been used for a while and had been reopened as a test centre. A nurse came out in the full protective gear to my car. She gave me a mask. She told me to put it on checked me off the list and came back then a couple of minutes later and brought me into the centre. The first thing I did was clean my hands with the alcohol (sanitizer). I went in, sat down and was told I would be asked a couple of questions and I was asked about where I had been and what my symptoms had been and so on.

“Then I had the swabs done. I had a swab taken on the inside of my throat on the left side and right side and one in the nasal passage. That was it, I was free to go. When I was leaving the test centre I felt really comforted because the nurses were so professional. They were so calm. They took me through the process with a smile really.

“Off I went thinking that was absolutely painless.

“Over the next couple of days, the symptoms got a little 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. Then I had the aching limbs, tiredness, real fatigue and I have three children here so you can't really succumb to that in when you are in that position.

“Anyway, the worst thing for me or the worst moment, and I was looking back over some 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 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. It didn't get so severe that 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 the shortness of breath being one of the symptoms, I for sure experienced that,” she said. MORE BELOW PICTURE.

The journalist too found it hard to explain testing positive.

“I can't tell you what that is like. It is so shocking, particularly when you don't expect it. Even at that point, I had completely convinced myself that this was just a chest infection.

“Then I went into guilt mode because I felt how many people have I given this too. That was my big concern. Obviously I have been self-isolating for quite some time and following all of the guidelines but there is always in the back of your mind that thought, before I had symptoms was I giving this condition to other people and who were those people.

“So, I felt guilty, shocked and worried. I sat down once I had processed a little bit and began to make my contact list out. It is really important to do this. I wrote down all of the people who I had spoken to for more than 15 minutes or had been closer than two metres to me for more than 15 minutes.

“I did that in detail. The next day that came into its own, because the first call you have is from the HSE and they explain about your diagnosis and what you need to do now and continue with your self-isolation and all of that.

“The next call is the contact tracing call. That is from the army in my case and they ask who you have been in contact with since your first symptom. What I did when I was making my list out. I had written down who I had been in contact with from a few days before my first symptom. But they need phone numbers and names. If you get a positive test it is a good idea to sit down and write down all those details,” she said.

By Monday, March 23 last Claire was well enough to return to the air, albeit from home.

“Thankfully, my symptoms have abated. I'm not too bad at all. Actually I think I am through the worst of it. The shortness of breath is gone and the day before yesterday when I woke up I didn't have the aching limbs so I feel like I've been through the peak of Covid-19 and I am very glad about that.

“I still feel quite guilty on my contact list who had to be told that they were in touch with someone who has been confirmed as a positive case but many of us are going to go through that experience and that is just all part of it,” she concluded.