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Miracle man Dun Purcell defies the odds by overcoming COVID-19 at 98 years young

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*Dun Purcell pictured at home in Feakle. Photograph: John Mangan

Ninety eight year old Dun Purcell is being hailed as “a miracle man” after overcoming COVID-19.

Diagnosed with the virus on January 20th, Dun made a remarkable recovery which resulted in his discharge from Ennis Hospital and subsequent return to his beloved Feakle on Friday.

Despite falling into the category of the very high risk groups and extremely vulnerable, Dun thankfully did not join the growing list of 3,750 plus persons that have died after contracting COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

Regarded as one of the true great characters of East Clare, Purcell was honoured almost a decade ago by Bluebird Care as one of the finest examples of positive ageing. He has always expressed his pride at being from Clare and the culture of music and song associated with the county.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Dun said that he was “feeling alright” but admitted that his energy levels took a dent and that he is sleeping longer. “God knows I have,” he stated when reflecting on beating the virus, “everything has worked out”.

He remains as sharp as ever with his ability to trace the genealogy of this writer successfully completed less than a minute after picking up the phone on Tuesday afternoon.

Indeed overcoming a deadly disease is nothing new to the retired farmer. When he was in his early twenties, Dun had tuberculosis. “I had TB very early in life. When I had TB and got over it, the doctor told me I would have a very long life”. More young Irish people were slain by TB than in warfare, in the 1930s and 1940s it was equated as the AIDS of its time.

To have survived two fierce illnesses makes Dun even more unique. “He has always had a very good immune system. He has been good at beating things, he always seems to come through, he has a very good immune system,” his daughter Kate admired.

When it came to COVID-19, Dun revealed that he was not feeling particularly unwell but gradually became weaker and weaker. “To be quite honest I didn’t know I was sick, that is the only way I know I could explain it. I didn’t know I was sick and maybe I was getting sicker and sicker until I knew I was done up”.

Kate told The Clare Echo that the timing of Dun’s recovery has been a perfect lift. “People have been telling me that they needed to hear it amidst all the doom and gloom. Especially older people when you hear them getting it, everyone holds their breath and says ‘oh dear me’. It’s great to see how Dun came out of it, he spent a week in hospital, he was very sick and got very sick with it, he was very low for a while but within two or three days within the hospital giving him treatment he started to come round and really day by day he’s been getting better and better”.

She noted that this is the first time the family have really had to look after their independent father. “Up to now he has been living on his own. He is well able to fend for himself, he was driving up until a few weeks ago, he has had great health so hopefully he will come back to himself within a short space of time”.

Having lived through the second World War, surviving scarlet fever and TB, Dun pinpointed the lockdown measures and dealing with isolation as a very hard period in his life with the lack of social contact dramatically reduced. He added, “I’m not too badly off, I can sit here near the fire, I wouldn’t like to be going out this evening because it is very cold but I’m going out for a walk every day”.

Enjoying a nice cup of tea in Bauregegaun Cottage was something Dun was looking forward to during his time in hospital. “Before I go to bed tonight, I might have a cup of tea, my family will put me to bed and I feel very comfortable then when I go to bed”.

In November, he was shortlisted as a nominee for Clare Older Person of the Year in recognition for running the Looking Forward Group for the past fifteen years. He let out a hearty laugh when The Clare Echo said it was yet another feather in his cap, “Oh Holy God but it all adds up to something,” he remarked.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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