This story is part of a series: Inside Ireland's Covid Battle

It's just after 11am on a bright May morning and nursing staff in one of the Covid-19 wards at St James's Hospital have gathered to spend a final few moments with a dying patient.

Patrick Commins, aged 97, contracted Covid-19. His family have allowed RTÉ to tell his story.

"With this patient, an elderly gentleman, we have entered the end of life stages and we're focusing on his comfort care," explains Dr Louise McKenna, Infectious Disease Registrar.

Patrick had been living in sheltered accommodation at Dublin's Granby House. His next-of-kin, a sister, lives in Canada so the hospital has facilitated visits from his carer, Lisa Connolly. Covid-19 guidelines mean that Lisa can only stay for short periods of time and must wear full personal protective equipment (PPE).

"He's going to pass away soon so I brought him a suit so it would be ready for when the time comes," Lisa says.

"We also wanted to make sure that he was well respected and his dignity was kept. I'm just going to sit with him for a while, see him, listen to music and talk. He can't really respond very well at the moment, but he's making facial expressions so I know he can hear me."

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for medical staff, among them an increase in deaths.

Witnessing the grief of others can take its toll, yet the nurses work hard to ensure patients are as comfortable as possible in their final days and hours.

For Patrick, that has meant reuniting him with a treasured possession - his pocket watch.

"It's so nice that he can have some of his belongings that are significant to him," says staff nurse Joanna Skuza. "We've put his watch in his hand just so he knows that he has it there."

On 25 May, Patrick Commins passed away.

Informing families of the death of a loved one has become all too common for nurses in recent months. On this occasion, it falls to staff nurse Emma Bermingham to call Patrick's carer.

"He was so comfortable. He had his watch in his hand and if you could ask for a death, he got exactly what he wanted. He was so peaceful and we were all with him when he took his final couple of breaths."


Stories from the series

Inside Ireland's Covid Battle
Behind the Mask
Inside One Dublin Hospital's Covid Battle
The last line of defence: Inside St James's ICU
A mirror to society: The ED during Covid
'The burden of death': Covid Inpatients
Mortuary witnessed 'major increase' in bodies
The 'terrifying' reality of ICU


RTÉ Investigates: Inside Ireland's Covid Battle

This story accompanies new documentaries from RTÉ Investigates going behind the scenes at St James's Hospital as it fights against Covid-19.

'Inside Ireland's Covid Battle' watch now on the RTÉ Player