A Day in the Life: Dr Jason Horan


DOUBLE-JOBBING Dr Jason Horan, an Emergency Medical Consultant with Mayo University Hospital, is also an emergency responder with the voluntary organisation, Mayo Irish Community Rapid Response. Pic: Darren Moran Photography

Name: Dr Jason Horan
Age: 41
From: Newmarket-on-fergus, Co Clare
Living: Westport
Occupation: Emergency Medical Consultant, Mayo University Hospital.

I have gym classes two mornings a week at 6.30am, so I am up 15 or 20 minutes before that, which motivates me to get up early. I go to the Republic of Fitness in Westport and at the moment they are doing all their classes with Zoom. I get up, switch on the laptop and I’m ready to go with the class.
I have only taken that up in the last year but it has given me much more energy levels and I’m able to concentrate more during the day. It sets me up for the rest of the day.
I normally skip breakfast and my first meal would be lunchtime. Up to then, I live on tea and coffee. As part of my diet I eat a low carb regime and that cuts down on my appetite and I don’t eat as often as others would.
For me personally the coronavirus outbreak changed my work quite a lot because I am taking the lead in implementing the changes in the Emergency Department.
There has been a lot of work building up to this but the actual hospital work itself hasn’t been very onerous. We have seen relatively low cases which has been common for the rest of the western seaboard. The government restrictions have definitely helped a lot in dampening down the virus rather than getting overwhelmed like Italy. I think it will be a slow burn with people getting sick, but not all at the one time, which was the problem in Italy.
For my on call days we have a hand over meeting at 8am in the morning where we go through the patients who came in the previous day and night and find out about them.
There is a mixture of people affected by Covid-19 coming into the hospital. There are people who have no symptoms or people who feel a little bit unwell and have a bit of the dry cough, and then there are people who are critically ill with difficulties breathing.
Sometimes patients have it without having too many symptoms and come into the hospital for another reason. They can just be vaguely unwell and off-form and that is the challenge for us.
In one sense it was quite scary but on the other hand China and Italy had a lot of the work done and we had good information on how to treat it. Even within Ireland we had the early experiences in Cork and Dublin, so we got a lot of local experience in the country.
We had a couple of weeks to get our head around the coronavirus and everyone is as prepared as possible for it.
We are taking as many precautions as we can and we are being careful around each other and trying to cut down in our social interactions while at work. We have split the whole hospital so if you have no symptoms of Covid-19 you won’t be mixing with patients who have it. We are also testing as many patients as possible who come into the hospital.
We are still getting patients who are quite sick but from our perspective it is a bit nicer because we can deal with these patients more effectively. We have more time with them and can get to them early and look after them quite well.

Generous public
The public have been very generous to us. We also got donations of hand cream and beauty products which is appreciated because we have been using more alcohol hand gels and it is good to keep the hands healthy and stop the skin cracking and breaking. We appreciate the goodwill from the public towards us. It is important to know that there are family members and friends thinking and worrying about us.
I usually finish here between 6pm and 8pm. We have a daily Covid-19 management meeting in the afternoon and if there is action I need to follow up on, it will be done that evening. There was much more of the late evenings at the start because we had a lot to work on but we are progressing well and I am getting out earlier in the last week or so.
It is now five years this summer since I helped set up the Mayo branch of Irish Community Rapid Response, a charity based in Bantry, Co Cork. It gives support and assistance to the emergency services when a serious emergency occurs. There are similar models in Cork and Wicklow who were working in a similar environment and when I moved to Mayo I could see a role for it.
All the work is voluntary and I respond to incidents like road traffic accidents and health attacks. I’m able to provide care for patients which they might not be able to receive before they reach hospital. I have been called out during the middle of the night but you don’t mind doing it because when dispatches waken you up at that time they have a good reason for doing it. Since Covid-19 kicked off in Mayo, there hasn’t been as many call-outs which kind of suited me in one sense because I had a lot of work on with the day job.
Since January 1, 2017 I have responded to 360 callouts. We are always on the look out for funding to pay for the day-to-day running costs and medical equipment which can be expensive.
Going to work I usually listen to Newstalk but later in the evening I would listen to music to help unwind and forget the day a little bit. The work here is never-ending so it is important to have some sort or demarkation between work and home life but at the same time things do crop up which you need to deal with. We have three kids at home so after work there is a bit of ‘divide and conquer’ with my wife Mary on who will do the groceries, cook the dinner and get the kids ready for bed.
Regarding Covid-19, I think things have been good in Mayo so far. If we can keep our numbers down and the social distancing so the virus doesn’t spread very quickly I think we will be okay. But it is a very fine line we are walking on.

In conversation with Anton McNulty

Quickfire questions

If money was no object what would do?
I’d like to live somewhere relatively isolated and have a natural wood forest around us

If the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in the morning, what would be the first thing you would do?
I think we would go camping for the weekend with the family and get out of the house

What is the most unusual thing you have eaten?
Because we have a multi-cultural workforce, people would bring in various food from their home country, so I have tried a lot of different foods you would not normally get

Favourite place in the world?
Gozo, an island off Malta where myself and my wife got married. It is a really nice rural area, a bit like Achill but with excellent weather!

What makes you angry?
Inefficiency and trying to get your message across to people who don’t listen

First hero?
Probably my cousin David McMahon. He is older than me and when he was young he set-up a scout unit and has done a lot with his life, which is inspiring. He started out as a heavy diesel mechanic and worked with Concern and now works with the UN based in New York.

What makes you nervous?
The unknown

Favourite TV show?
At the moment NCIS, a crime-drama show

What is the best advice you ever got?
Probably at one stage when we were having a bit of a crisis, someone said, keep you head down and keep working and it will sort itself out

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I constantly get a craving for all sorts of nuts. Tesco had a salt and vinegar peanut for a while which was really addictive

Three things in your fridge?
Greek yogurt, Kelly’s black pudding because it is the only meat my four year old will eat, and milk for tea

Most prized possession?
My wife will say my computer

How do you unwind?
Sitting together as a family and watching television in the evening