'He loved life' - Family pay tribute to Offaly coronavirus victim
John Keegan, a 79-year-old man from Cloghan, is believed to have been the first county Offaly victim of the coronavirus.
His death was confirmed along with nine others on March 24 but his family want him to be more than just another statistic in a news broadcast.
As well as being a victim of this worldwide pandemic, John Keegan was also "a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather."
That's according to one of his granddaughters, Sinead Keegan, who spoke to our sister website, Offaly Express, this week. "He adored his family and enjoyed nothing more than being surrounded by them all," she said.
"He loved life, he lived it to the fullest. Attending dances all over the county when he was in good health and boy could he dance," Sinead added.
In recent years, John's health began to deteriorate with hospital visits becoming more and more frequent. He had been to hospital almost 20 visits in the last 12 months.
His final stay in hospital lasted several weeks.
Explaining her beloved grandfather's final week, Sinead said: "A member of my family received a call to say my grandfather was being put into isolation as they believed he had come into contact with a patient who had tested positive for Covid-19.
"He was tested for the coronavirus and we believed that in, at most maybe a few days, we would have the results, but no. All the while grandad was going downhill fast with family in England contacted and told to make arrangements to get home.
"My grandfather's doctor at Tullamore Hospital made the decision to allow my family in to see grandad while the hospital was on lockdown, and even though he knew my grandad could possibly have Covid-19, my family were not given the adequate PPE," she added.
For a short time on March 24, doctors believed John Keegan didn't, in fact, have the coronavirus, a glimmer of hope his family were "ecstatic" about.
From then on, things developed and deteriorated very quickly. "An aunt of mine was in with grandad when a nurse called her out to tell her the results were back and that they were positive and my grandfather had Covid-19. Minutes later, grandad passed away. It was only then, that two of my aunts were given the proper PPE to go in and say their goodbyes," Sinead explained.
Due to restrictions, John's family couldn't give him the send-off they wanted too. Instead, Sinead described the funeral process as "strange, surreal and heartbreaking."
"We couldn't wake him, after the funeral, we couldn't all come together and share stories of the past, and smile, laugh and reminisce. Instead, we all stood in the graveyard all spaced apart, gloved, and masked. We couldn't stand together united as a family. We couldn't console one another. It's something I'll never forget; I don't think any of us will ever forget it."
"Due to some of my family being in with my grandad, infection control got in contact with them and they had to self isolate for 14 days just in case they picked up the virus from him. Thankfully none did," Sinead told us.
After her sad and distressing experience with Covid-19, Sinead is making a heartfelt appeal to the public. "I am urging the public to adhere to the restrictions put in place by the Irish government. This virus does not discriminate. You may think you are safe, but we thought our grandad was safe, in a hospital of all places. Think of your loved ones. Please."
Sinead also said the death of her grandfather brought out some of the best of her community and thanked a number of people for their help, prayers and compassion.
"I would like to thank St. Rynaghs GAA Club for their very thoughtful gesture of the flags either side of the pillars going into the graveyard. Thank you to Grennan's funeral directors in Ferbane for all their help. To my uncle Vincent and his boys, for all their hard work, Michael Tierney for helping them. Evelyn Jordan for being grandad's carer and doing a fantastic job.