Covid-19 survivor expresses frustration over gatherings

A Covid-19 survivor has expressed his frustration at seeing crowds out despite tough new rules designed to stem the spread of the virus.

Geoffrey McKillop, 56, still requires oxygen almost five months after being released from hospital.

The Bushmills man spent two weeks on a ventilator in April and missed the birth of his first grandson as he fought for his life.

“People are very ignorant, they think they can’t get it,” he told the PA news agency.

Coronavirus – Fri May 15, 2020
Geoffrey McKillop leaving the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Co Londonderry in May (Liam McBurney/PA)

“I came around Portballintrae on Sunday and I just shook my head. I came into Bushmills and actually sat in the car outside my coffee shop, could not believe what I saw.

“Portballintrae harbour car park was absolutely full. I’m not trying to be a party pooper, but all the canoes and paddles boards, and they were all standing together having a cup of tea and a chat.

“I was thinking, you guys aren’t from here, what are you doing here. Totally unnecessary journey.

“Any other time of the year we would welcome you here with open arms but these are extraordinary circumstances. It doesn’t seem to register with people.”

Mr McKillop first experienced Covid-19 symptoms at the end of March, and was admitted to hospital on April 5.

He was quickly put on a ventilator, which he remained on for more than two weeks, to April 25.

Since then, he has had to move to a bungalow while he slowly recovers his strength.

Looking back now, he says he is not sure how he caught it, but suspect it may have been from handling cash in his businesses.

“If I had to say something I would say, counting money in the shops, it’s a natural thing when counting money, you touch your finger to your lips,” he said.

“I don’t know for sure, I could have met someone who had it or from packaging, but if I had to put something on paper, I would say counting money. Money is one of the dirtiest things you can handle.”

Coronavirus – Fri May 15, 2020
Geoffrey McKillop (passenger seat of car) shows his gratitude as he waves to well wishers in Co Antrim, after being discharged from Causeway Hospital (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr McKillop said he felt overwhelmed by the warm reaction when he received when he left the Causeway Hospital.

Bushmills residents lined the streets as he was driven through the town, where he owns the Hip Chip and the Codsway restaurants.

“I was totally overwhelmed, it was a lovely gesture, something I will never forget,” he said.

“I think I was lucky and because I’m a local lad here from Bushmills, I have the shops, everyone knows me. It was so doom and gloom for a while and they were glad to see me get out. People were very kind which I really appreciated.”

He also paid tribute to the hospital staff who cared for him.

“They were so, so good to me, you couldn’t thank them enough,” he said.

The businessman said he remains on the journey to recovery and doctors believe there is permanent damage to his lungs.

Geoffrey McKillop
Geoffrey McKillop is thought to have permanent damage to his lungs (Liam McBurney/PA)

He has not yet returned to work and said it may take at least a year to 18 months before he is fully recovered.

“Initially I was very very sore, my whole body ached from head to toe, especially my shoulders in the morning,” he said.

“I had a lot of problems with my shoulders from being ventilated. Playing golf has actually helped with that, the rotation of the shoulders.

“I’m still on the oxygen so I take it with me on the course and take it off between shots. But you are concentrating on hitting the ball so it takes away your pain. I really struggle towards the last holes of the course.

“Physically I’m recovering well, but you can still feel something is not quite right in your body.

“Although I’m just happy to be alive. A lot of really good people didn’t get the luck that I got.

“It gives you a different outlook on life, that’s for sure.”

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