Ex-Portsmouth, QPR and Wales defender Gavin Maguire: I'm helping the NHS fight coronavirus - but fear I've now caught it

Gavin Maguire’s incessant coughing bouts during conversation convey an ominous tone.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 5:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 11:44 am
Former Pompey defender Gavin Maguire (right) is a hospital porter at Swindon's Great Western Hospital - and fears he has contracted coronavirus

The 52-year-old suspects he has contracted coronvirus – it will be clarified towards the end of this week.

As a hospital porter at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, Maguire sought testing on Tuesday having developed high temperatures to accompany an existing dry cough.

The tell-tale signs are perceptible to somebody on the NHS battle line during their indefatigable fight against the global pandemic.

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The former Pompey defender was employed at the Wiltshire-based hospital in February, representing another abrupt career change following almost 25 years as a hairdresser.

Having also seen footballing service at QPR, Newcastle and Millwall, in addition to seven international outings for Wales, Maguire is presently dedicating himself to a challenge he finds inspiring.

For the moment, however, he waits, confined to self-isolation at the Swindon home he shares with his pensioner mother.

Maguire told The News: ‘I love my job, I see glimpses of amazing things every single day. You cannot help but feel positive.

Gavin Maguire made 109 appearances for Pompey during a four-year Fratton Park stay. Picture: Neal Simpson

‘From having numerous surgery during my playing days, I remember the porters would give you a lift when you were feeling at your lowest. It’s a role which really appealed.

‘I had been cutting hair for almost 25 years, yet recently hadn’t enjoyed it and was panicking. It occurred to me I could be stuck in it for the rest of my life – what else can I do?

‘Being a hospital porter is a very, very social job, which suits me down to the ground. I’ve always been one to put others before me and you have to recognise when people want to discuss things or don’t.

‘Certainly you must be empathetic and positive, because at the moment we are dealing with some horrendous situations on pretty much a constant basis.

Gavin Maguire shares a joke after appearing in Andy Awford's 2007 testimonial. Picture: Steve Reid

‘From day one, dealing with patients who have passed is part of the job, as porters we take some of the bodies to the morgue, you are introduced to it straight away.

‘Then, all of a sudden, the coronavirus appears. You are going to the morgue pretty much once a day – then it becomes four or five, which is really tough.

‘One of the hardest things is seeing the name of somebody you took up to the ward three days earlier – and that brings it all home. You’re filling out the paperwork and notice the age, which is the same as me or younger. It does make you think.

‘We currently have slightly different health procedures, which is understandable. We go to the rooms and respectfully shut other areas, without disturbing patients because it can be traumatic for them.

‘Then we have a specialised transfer box, which is used to take people down to the mortuary.

‘At the moment there’s not a lot of good news happening, we are dealing with a lot of deaths. Before it was a really vibrant, happy place – but not at the moment.

‘As soon as you step back from it, though, and hear the appreciation from the public, it makes a massive difference to us.

‘Nurses, doctors, consultants, cleaners, catering people and hospital porters – we face-to-face with coronavirus every day we come into work.’

Maguire was a tough-tackling defender renowned for a fiery temper and wretched disciplinary record during a playing career ended by a serious knee injury at the age of just 26.

His talent had earned a £175,000 move to Fratton Park from QPR in January 1989, representing the final signing of the Alan Ball regime.

In total, he made 109 appearances for the Blues over a four-year spell, before switching to Millwall in March 1993 for £115,000.

Upon retirement, Maguire turned to hairdressing, running his own Somerset salon for eight years, with his last employment at Toni & Guy in Ascot, Berkshire.

Then, requiring a change in direction, earlier this year his sister, Linda, highlighted a full-time hospital porter position at the Great Western Hospital, where she works in the cardiac department.

Maguire added: ‘During my first couple of weeks there, I picked up everything, from diarrhoea to an eye infection, simply because your immune system isn't used to it.

‘We wear gowns, gloves, masks and sometimes glasses if transporting people, but staff can also get things.

‘Should I have a positive result for coronavirus, I’m not going to fall to bits because I haven’t got anything underlying. I may not be fit, but I haven’t got the usual ex-player paunch!

‘On the flip side, should I get a negative result, I’m not going to think I am a fraud. You have to be certain, I couldn’t live with myself if I was spreading it.

‘I took the test on Tuesday morning, which involved a swab on the back of your throat and up your nose, with it potentially taking 72 hours to come back.

‘I’m now on really strong antibiotics, which are making me feel a bit sick. They also examined my chest and felt it was a little compromised on one side, maybe a slight touch of pneumonia.

‘If it turned out to be coronavirus, it wouldn’t come as any surprise. Let’s be honest, if you worked at a hospital it would be hard not to get it.

‘I have no idea when it may have happened. There wasn’t one specific moment where I should have worn something. It could be off a door handle, the wheelchairs we push people around in, the beds we’ve moved, you can’t cover everything, that's the trouble.

‘We have to wash our hands constantly, but you are touching things in an environment which has the potential for it to be on everything.’

Maguire has endured mental health issues during his life, particularly since his football career was halted so abruptly at a premature age.

The decision to speak publicly in recent years about his issues has provided a crucial foundation to embark on a fresh direction in his search for fulfilment.

As a Wales international first capped in September 1989, he can list Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Kevin Ratcliffe, Mark Hughes and Dean Saunders among team-mates.

Now Maguire is revelling featuring in an NHS team which continues to earn a country's applause during the coronavarius crisis.

He added: ‘It was a big step coming into this job, but I wish I’d done it years ago, I absolutely love it.

‘I believe more good is going to come out of this than bad once we are through it. Certainly, for me, it has been a wake-up call, showing me what’s important in life and maybe how I want to do some things differently.

‘People should be looking at themselves and thinking maybe this is an opportunity to change their own approach to life.

‘I am positive. It’s too easy to think negatively, I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about poor me. Things only get better if you are willing to change.

‘The NHS staff are unbelievable, they are working so hard. Being part of it is really, really moving – and makes me proud.

‘As a sportsman, I was part of a team – and now I’m back in one. The sacrifices these people are making are outstanding.

‘I count myself fortunate to be on their side.’

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