Former Olympic rower Kenny Dwan remembers coronavirus ordeal

Former Olympic rower Kenny Dwan remembers coronavirus ordeal

April 22, 2020

Former Olympic rower Kenny Dwan, 71, says patients were ‘going home in black bags’ minutes after removing their oxygen masks to say goodbye to their families – as he breaks down over his coronavirus ordeal

  • Kenny Dwan, 71, spent three weeks in hospital being treated with coronavirus 
  • He appeared on Good Morning Britain today with the doctor who treated him 
  •  British rower compared oxygen masks gas masks worn in the Second World War 
  • Dr Eilish Dunning admitted there were times she didn’t think he’d pull through 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Former Olympic rower Kenny Dwan says that coronavirus patients were ‘going home in black bags’ ten minutes after removing their oxygen masks to say a final goodbye to their families. 

Remembering his own three-week ordeal in an emotional Good Morning Britain interview, the athlete, 71, from London,  who competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, said that he thought of his time recovering like preparation for a race. 

He teared up after speaking with the doctor who treated him, Dr. Eilish Dunning, and recalling the moment he was discharged from hospital, knowing that he would be able to see his children and grandchildren again. 

Former Olympic rower Kenny Dwan (pictured) said on Good Morning Britain that coronavirus patients were ‘going home in black bags’ ten minutes after removing their oxygen masks

When asked by host Susanna Reid whether his competitive spirit helped him throughout the ordeal, he said: ‘It pulled me through, that and that doctor you’re talking about. 

‘I had that oxygen mask on strapped to my face. It reminded me – there were people in the war begging to die and pulling the masks off their face.  

‘I was lying there I could hear it and see it, people ripping their mask off speaking to their families and ten minutes later going home in a black bag. I thought – I have this mask on, I’m breathing.’ 

‘I thought if I’m going to win this race then, I can cope with this. I started to programme my mind, thinking “if i’m going to win this race, this is the preparation that will get me through to the final”‘. 

He teared up after speaking with the doctor who treated him, Dr. Eilish Dunning (right), and remembering the moment he was discharged from hospital, knowing that he would be able to see his children and grandchildren again

Dr. Dunning told how she immediately recognised Kenny once he joined the ward, as his brother John was her upstairs neighbor, meaning she was able to give his family regular updates on his health

He later teared up recalling the moment he was discharged from hospital, remembering the first time he saw sunlight again after spending three weeks in the coronavirus ward.  

‘When they push you around those corridors’, he said, ‘I could see the double doors at the end of the corridor and as I got closer, it opened and I went out into the sunlight and the fresh air.’ 

Welling up, he went on: ‘It was so emotional and even now I can’t believe I’ve come home to my children and grandchildren. 

‘My granddaughter whose four wrote a letter to father Christmas and she said I don’t want any presents all I want is my grandad back and I can’t wait to see them

 Dr. Dunning told how she immediately recognised Kenny once he joined the ward, as his brother John was her upstairs neighbor, meaning she was able to give his family regular updates on his health. 

Kenny, who is now invited to Eilish’s wedding, went on to describe her as an ‘angel’ and praising her incredible work ethic

She admitted that there were moments she didn’t think Kenny would pull through, saying: ‘It’s incredible, Ken is such a success story.

‘There were nights I went to visit him, I didn’t think he was going to make it. He was pouring sweat and couldn’t speak, but I kept saying you have to get out of this so we can go on that boat trip of yours.’ 

Kenny, who is now invited to Eilish’s wedding, went on to describe her as an ‘angel’ and praising her incredible work ethic. 

He said: ‘She was my angel and I used to look forward to her coming in. Doesn’t matter what time her shift was, she would come in on her days off and she looked after me. She invited me to the wedding, it’s a real Irish wedding a three day craic.’

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