A POPULAR Omagh DJ who thought “Covid would never get me” ended up in ICU fearing for his life after he contracted the virus.
JJ Quinn, one of the most recognisable figures in Omagh’s nightlife scene, spoke with the UlsterHerald to reflect on last month’s terrifying ordeal which left him laying in a hospital bed ‘on a ventilator, attached to seven IV drips, wondering if it was time to call the kids to see them one last time’.
“It began on a Monday when I didn’t feel a hundred per-cent,” said JJ, “but I didn’t know what it was at that point; the symptoms were mild and vague.”
Little did JJ – who had one dose of the vaccine at the time – know, but these mild symptoms were overtures of what was soon to come.
“Over the next two days my condition deteriorated rapidly – by Tuesday I was bed bound, and when my test came back on Wednesday, Sheena (JJ’s partner) came into the bedroom to check on me, saw the state I was in, and called an ambulance immediately,” said JJ.
Delirious, JJ was helped from his home into the ambulance by paramedics.
“Apparently I said ‘well Gav’ to my neighbour before I was put into the ambulance, an utterance of which I have no recollection,” recalls JJ.
By half three, JJ who is diabetic, was laying in critical condition in the ICU of SWAH hospital.
“I couldn’t breathe, I was scared to move, and I had drips running into two arteries, others administering insulin and fluids at different points,” said JJ.
A reading was taken to measure JJ’s blood sugar levels.
“A healthy reading is between four and eight,” said JJ, “mine had soared to 39.
“Normally I can tell if my blood sugar levels are out of kilter by the way I feel, but the symptoms of Covid were so overwhelming that I wasn’t able to tell,” said JJ.
With his blood sugar levels life-threateningly high, his respiratory system unable to support itself, and every inch of his body feeling beaten and drained, JJ seriously considered whether his “name was being called.”
“A wee nurse called Mary sat with me all night trying to reassure me that it wasn’t going to be the last time I saw my my kids, Holly and Jamie, grandson Finn, or partner Sheena again,” said JJ.
And day-by-day JJ’s condition improved; three days after being admitted to ICU he was moved to a standard ward, and four days after that he was discharged completely.
“I’m on the other side of it now,” explained JJ, “but I am still always wrecked.”
JJ, who works as a joiner and dryliner, described the first day he attempted to return to work.
“I had been out of the hospital two weeks and thought I was feeling okay, so I decided to go out and do a bit of work in the garage.
“I lifted three sheets of light mdf wood and that was as much as I could do – I felt as if I had been kicked up and down Sally’s Hill!”
JJ credits the first vaccine with having saved his life, but prior to his macabre road to Damascus moment, JJ had entertained varying degrees of scepticism about the virus and the vaccine.
“At the beginning of the pandemic I thought that the entire thing was a conspiracy,” reflected JJ. “I would probably have laughed if you’d said it existed, never mind that it would nearly kill me.
“But my ma got it and a few other people I knew got it, and
I felt under pressure to get the jab because I do have diabetes and I wouldn’t be the best diabetic in the world either,” said JJ.
He continued, “The first vaccine I got took me out for a week, so I had decided I wasn’t going to get a second.”
But JJ’s brush with death has instilled him with a sense of clarity about the dangers of Covid-19 in relation to the risks posed by the vaccine.
“No vaccination could be worse than what I went through – after what happened to me, I would encourage everyone, young and old, to go and get their vaccine.”
JJ concluded, “I thought I was the big man; that I was young enough and fit enough to fight it off on my own, but I found out I was wrong the hard way. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody else.”
By Emmet McElhatton