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Family's plea for prayers for COVID-19 patient answered

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When 68-year-old Paul Faraguna was fighting for his life after contracting COVID-19 on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship, his family reached out to the Catholic Church for help.

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With churches closed and Masses suspended, they went online where they found information about the live streaming of Easter services from St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

Paul’s son Adam emailed the Adelaide Archdiocese via its website explaining that his father was in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He said his family would be watching Mass online for Palm Sunday, a day that was very important for their father.

“His condition is not good and he is fighting for his life,” he wrote.

“Please let the priest(s) know his condition in his hour of need, we need prayers for this selfless person.

“He has given nearly 200 blood donations in his life. He also volunteers at the parish…”

His message was passed on to Fr Anthoni Adimai, the Cathedral Administrator and celebrant on Palm Sunday, and Fr Adimai asked people to pray for Paul at the beginning of the Mass which was viewed by thousands.

“The outcome is not looking good, but I am praying for mercy,” Adam wrote on April 7 in his second email to the Archdiocese.

“He is a selfless man…a kind, gentle man, with a lot of integrity.”

Adam said that it was particularly difficult for the family because they couldn’t be by his dad’s side to hold him and talk to him (due to the highly contagious nature of the virus).

Paul and Robyn Faraguna pictured while holidaying on the Ruby Princess.

“Please continue to pray for him, we need all the help we can get. My mum and dad have been together for 47 years and she will be lost without him.”

The family also made contact with the Tranmere parish where Paul attends Mass every Sunday. The parish priest Fr Roy Elavumkal called the family regularly to check on Paul’s progress and to tell the family he was praying for him.

On April 30, after 37 days in ICU, 21 in an induced coma and on a ventilator, Paul was moved into a general ward.

“He’s awake and talking,” a relieved Adam told The Southern Cross.

“We are very proud of him for fighting so long.

“In typical Dad style he just keeps saying he doesn’t want to cause problems for anyone.”

The family reiterated their gratitude  for the prayers and support they had received from the Church, including a visit from chaplain
Fr David Thoroughgood who anointed Paul on April 21 after he had tested negative twice for COVID-19 but was still in a critical condition.

“Dad has a very strong faith and it was important for us to know that people were praying for him.”

Adam and his sister Stacey, who are Mercedes College old scholars, said having been raised Catholic and having a Catholic education had helped prepare them for “this traumatic period in our lives”.

“Although we couldn’t be with Dad, we could pray for him and felt comfort in that,” he said.

“Dad has always told us if we have faith we will be looked after. We can certainly say our prayers were listened to.”

Adam said when his mum Robyn and his dad both tested positive for COVID-19 a week after disembarking from the Ruby Princess he was pretty confident they’d be alright.

Since retiring Paul had spent a lot of time working in his large garden and he and Robyn would climb Mt Lofty once a week. It was a huge shock when he was placed in an induced coma to receive the ventilator and then as he deteriorated he experienced kidney failure.

“When I heard about the other passengers from the Ruby Princess dying, I was petrified,” Adam said.

Robyn was in hospital for a short time and another couple who were on the cruise with them also tested positive but are well now.

Adam said the family was devastated for the families who lost their loved ones and wanted to express their deep sympathy.

He also praised the medical staff at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“Our family is very grateful to the wonderful doctors and nurses at the ICU, who have fought alongside our father to get him to this point,” he said.

“This experience has made us realise how lucky we are to have access to world class health care services.

“We would implore everyone to take this virus very seriously because we have firsthand knowledge of the devastation it can cause. Some small inconveniences now can help save a lot of heartache in the future.”

Pope Francis has asked Christians around the world to pray the Rosary during May, a month traditionally devoted to Our Lady but all the more relevant due to the suffering caused by the coronavirus.

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