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*Thomas Tubridy.

A West Clare man working on the frontline in the UK is preparing himself for his first Christmas away from his family having made to decision not to return home.

Kilrush native Thomas Tubridy works for the London Ambulance Service as a Paramedic based out of Camden Ambulance Station. Living with his partner in Islington, North Central London, Tom has experienced the pandemic at its worst in London working as a frontline paramedic.

This will be his first-year spending Christmas abroad, away from his Mam, Dad and two brothers. Admitting that they have always been a close family, Tom states: “It wouldn’t be fair on my family or friends to jump ship for a few days to see them. As a healthcare professional, we need to lead by example. When this is all over or calmed down, I’ll get back to see my family and friends.”

Tom says that he has had the privilege to walk into people’s lives on their worst days and provide clinical treatment and make a difference to their prognosis and outcome. He has also witnessed the mental and physical effects it has had on friends and colleagues and the depths they will go to support and care for those around them. He explains that: “The nature of the job we do is life and death a lot of the time. I feel very privileged to be given this responsibility.”

Typically, Tom would return to Ireland to see his family and friends every few months. Due to Covid-19 and his line of work, he has not been home since January 2020. “I’m on the phone with Mam and Dad most days checking in on them and vice versa. A five-minute chat always cheers me up. I’d have loved to get back home to Kilrush this Christmas but it’s going to be my first one on in London without them,” he states.

On what a typical Christmas would look like, he adds: “The last three years, Dad or a friend would pick me up at Shannon on Christmas Eve. We’d head back to Kilrush early and I’d catch up with the lads for a coffee and lunch. Since 2018, we’ve all headed to the pub on Christmas Eve to catchup and get merry. Christmas at home has always been special to me, normally we head to Kilrush woods in the morning for a walk with luna, the family’s most loved dog and head home for drinks and far too much food.”

This year, like many emigrants deciding not to return for Christmas, Tom will be spending the festive days with his partner from Australia, who will also be away from family. We have each other, will enjoy the day and give both families a call, he tells. “Things could be much worse; we are lucky we are in good health and have each other to celebrate the day. I’m sure they are sad they won’t see me, but I know how proud of me they are,” he states.

Despite wearing adequate PPE each day, Tom contracted Covid-19 in November. Having a high exposure to Covid patients made it inevitable, he feels. This has strengthened his reasoning in not coming home to Kilrush this Christmas, as he feels it would not be fair on family, friends and Irish nationals, despite being back to full health and work once again.

“For anyone heading home, I hope everyone follows the guidelines and rules, we need to realise this virus is bigger than us and every decision we make, will affect those around us. Having seen the mental and physical affects daily this has had on friends, family and patients, we are far from the end. Lastly, for those feeling alone and isolated, you are not alone, pick up the phone and speak to friends, family or a wider support network. Stay safe and have a merry Christmas,” he concluded.

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