AN 82-YEAR-OLD former Irish army officer who survived the Siege of Jadotville has offered up words of encouragement to countless millions after making a full recovery from COVID-19.
Tom Gunn was diagnosed with coronavirus a few weeks ago after experiencing a “chesty cough” that got progressively worse, with his daughter eventually forced to call an ambulance.
He was taken to the nearby Mullingar Hospital where, after two days in isolation, a test confirmed he had COVID-19.
Speaking to Susan Keogh on Newstalk Breakfast, Tom described receiving the initial test result as “a death sentence” given his age – but he was determined to fight it.
“It hit you like a brick wall, so then you have to try and gather yourself together and fight it off.”
While Tom’s recovery offers hope to millions, he made no bones about how terrifying his ordeal was.
“It’s a frightening experience - I was in Jadotville, which was a picnic compared with this,” he said.
Tom was part of the 156-strong contingent of Irish troops armed only with light weapons and antiquated machine guns held a 3,000 strong force at bay in the Congo in September 1961.
This time around he knew he was facing an entirely different kind of fight against COVID-19 – but it was one he was determined to win.
“At least in Jadotville I could see the enemy - this is an enemy I couldn’t see. But I did fight it,” he said.
While Tom is quick to acknowledge the incredible role nursing staff, doctors and other medical professionals played in his recovery, he also described Newstalk how he developed his own breathing technique to battle the virus.
Tom said: "I did draw on my army experience in the Congo: you must stand up now and fight, not lie down, and do all the things that the nurses and staff tell you to do.
“I developed my own strategy as regards breathing - I used to grab the back of the bed… fill my lungs with air ten times, breathe it - even though it hurt an awful lot - to get the phlegm and stuff off my chest. Then relax, and do that about once an hour.”
Tom Gunn is 82 years of age. He served in the Congo with the Irish Army & survived the Siege Of Jadotville. And now he’s survived #COVID19 After two weeks in hospital he’s back home with his family. Tom is one of my guests on #NewstalkBreakfast in the morning. On air from 8am 📻 pic.twitter.com/9KvV1VL82d
— Susan Keogh (@susankeoghnews) April 4, 2020
After two weeks in hospital, Tom returned home to his family.
Now fully recovered, he offered Newstalk a few words of encouragement for anyone battling the virus – a battle he firmly believes Ireland and the rest of the world will win.
“Where there’s life, there’s hope,” he said.
“We Irish went through famines, pestilence, wars… and we always came out on top. I think we’re going to win this one as well. There will be casualties… but we will come through.”
Tom’s story comes days after another 82-year-old Irishman made an incredible recovery from the deadly virus.
Paddy-Joe Lynch was pictured leaving hospital in Sligo a few days ago after winning his battle with coronavirus.
His recovery has been described as “beacon of hope” for Ireland.
Tom’s fightback should provide further encouragement during this dark and difficult days.
You can listen to Susan Keogh’s full interview with Tom Gunn here.