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Deirdre Muldoon, Primary Care Paediatric Physiotherapist in the clinic on the grounds of St. Joseph's Hospital. Photograph by John Kelly

‘It’s a rewarding job and you have a lot of fun with children’

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In the first in a series of ‘Day in the Life’ interviews with healthcare workers redeployed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dan Danaher speaks with Kilkee physiotherapist Deirdre Muldoon

A KILKEE senior physiotherapist has lauded the teamwork and flexibility shown by all healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deirdre Muldoon praised staff who assumed a bigger workload providing health services when their colleagues were redeployed to other duties.
When former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar publicly announced major restrictions for the first national lockdown, Deirdre wasn’t surprised, as there were rumblings in the health services that these strict measures were in the pipeline.
At the outset of the pandemic, Deirdre admits what was happening in Italy was quite scary.
“There was some relief that I wasn’t working in the acute sector any more and I was worried for family, friends, aunts and uncles as there was a big unknown. Thankfully, the first wave didn’t turn out to be as bad as what we had seen elsewhere but there was still massive preparation to prepare for the worst.”
Like some of her primary care colleagues, Deirdre was redeployed to carry out Covid-19 swabbing following extensive online training and a classroom-based courses on putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, hand hygiene and Covid-19.
Initially, Deirdre carried out swabbing at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, Ballysimon, Limerick and Cusack Park, Ennis and went wherever she was needed.
She also worked in the Covid-19 Assessment Hub in Shannon before returning to her normal job last June.
Last October, she got called again to do some testing in Cusack Park before it closed and worked on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day during the second surge on her time off from her core clinical hours.
At work, she had to wear personal protective equipment including a mask, googles, full apron and a face shield, which she discarded when she had a baby in her arms as it could touch their face.
“It wasn’t comfortable wearing a mask in the beginning but I am totally used to it now.
“Children don’t wear a mask. A lot of the way you communicate with a child is through facial expressions. I thought it would make a huge difference with babies, but it didn’t for most of them, a lot is down to the tone of your voice and your eyes. A lot of new mothers say their babies are used to seeing people wearing masks.
“I wore the FFP2 mask, which are more sealed, in the Covid-19 hub. You wouldn’t take off your PPE unless you were leaving the area.When you were donning your PPE other colleagues checked to ensure you were properly sealed. There were very strict rules to follow using PPE, disinfecting the shower after it was used and we had our own baskets for our own gear.
“I was going home to my husband and kids and didn’t want to be bringing anything with me.”
Her husband works as a clinical psychologist for the Brothers of Charity in Limerick and sometimes he was redeployed to look after service users in houses.
When he was working, Deirdre would check in to ensure her children were completing their school work remotely during work breaks.
One of the positive new changes introduced last January was the use of video consultations for appointments, which worked well, particularly parents who had to travel from Loop Head or Ballyvaughan.
While Deirdre prefers to see people face-to-face if possible, she acknowledges virtual clinics work well for review appointments. She felt fortunate that she didn’t have to work a 12-hour shift in a Covid-19 acute unit in hospital and she could stay working while thousands of people lost their jobs.
The worst part of the pandemic was not being able to visit her parents while she was swabbing and seeing patients’ distress before a test.
Having trained and qualified as a physiotherapist in London, Deirdre has been working as a physio in Clare since 2002 and became a paediatric physio about four years ago.
She provides a wide variety of physio to children such as babies who might have a turn in their foot, a tight neck and children with rheumatology, co-ordination of arthritis type conditions.
Having worked as a senior paediatric physio in UHL helping children with Cystic Fibrosis and respiratory illness, the cub scout leader has always enjoyed working with children.
“It is a rewarding job and you have a lot of fun with children. I am lucky that most of the children do quite well.
“I work with my paediatric occupational therapist colleagues and we do joint sessions and run groups together such as teaching children how to ride a bike, having completed cycling courses.
“Sometimes children aren’t in an environment where they learn to cycle for a variety of reasons. I remember one girl who came into me and said she would love to be able to ride a bike.
“In Fifth Class in her school they were due to do cycle safety and she was very worried about not being able to participate. Her parents weren’t aware until she said it. They lived in a housing estate in Ennis and it got to a stage where she was very self conscious about it. She was happy to come to the clinic and learn how to cycle.”

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