Hazel Rigby, 56, lives with her rescue cat, Smudge, in High Farm, Wallsend. She works at HMRC and due to arthritis in her shoulders uses voice activated software to support her workload and therefore has been working in the office, where possible.
She has contracted Covid twice in the past six months, both taking her completely by surprise as she has been following guidance to the letter. Due to a previous medical condition, she is still suffering from chest pains and breathlessness.
Even though she’s had a tough time symptoms-wise she counts her lucky stars that she managed to not pass the virus onto her extremely vulnerable sister.
“The first time I think I picked up the virus was over the August Bank Holiday weekend. I went for a couple of glasses of prosecco at the Fish Quay with my sister and niece. Because lateral flows were becoming the norm last summer, we had all tested negative before meeting up.
“It wasn’t particularly busy and we stayed in one bar, where there was table service and we all wore masks to walk through the place to head to the toilet and outside as per the rules.
“But then a few days later, I had made myself dinner and poured a glass of wine - a weekend treat for me - but I didn’t feel hungry and I certainly didn’t want to drink. I went to bed early and the next day I had lost my taste and smell and low and behold, I tested positive on both the at-home lateral flow test and my PCR.
“My first thought was of course, my sister, she has always struggled with a chest condition and I would have been devastated if she had also contracted it, thankfully when I called her, she was fine! It was such a relief. My niece was also negative - it’s so strange how it picks and chooses its victims.
“My symptoms developed quickly, the worst being the fatigue, the incessant coughing and the pain right in the centre of my chest.
“I have previously been diagnosed with a hiatus hernia but the last endoscopy I had showed it had cleared up, however, because of Covid, it was being irritated and reared its painful head again.
“I was taking paracetamol to try and ease the pain in my chest but it wasn’t working, I knew I needed the medication I had taken before for the hernia. I spoke over the phone to my local GP and because of my symptoms, he needed to be on the safe side and referred me to A&E. Following five hours of consultations and tests (thank you NHS), the hospital agreed that my hernia was back and prescribed the same medication I had taken before.
“After a few weeks, my smell and taste returned, and my chest felt a bit looser but I was still, and still am, very breathless. It’s a peculiar type of breathlessness, it’s not like feeling unfit but more like you can’t take a full breath, even after only doing a bit of housework.
“Although the second time I had Covid (in January this year) the symptoms weren’t as severe, but it’s definitely set me back in terms of my fitness and general energy levels. I desperately want to go back to Zumba but I just don’t feel like I can hack it at the moment.
“I feel like being fully vaccinated the second time around also helped with managing symptoms. I am also so thankful for the free lateral flow and PCR tests as I was able to know early on that I had it.
“I think it’s so important to be vaccinated and to test because it’s always better to err on the side of caution, especially if you have vulnerable loved ones like me.
“I urge everyone to be wary of any feelings of being unwell. A lot of my friends have had upset stomachs and no cough whereas others have been bedridden with headaches and fatigue - you just don’t know until you take a test.
“Covid is still extremely transmissible and there will be new variants evolving all the time, it is up to us to do the responsible thing and remain vigilant.
“There will come a point where we have to live with it and it will be like the flu. We know we will need to be jabbed every year and we will do it as we don’t want to be poorly - and we certainly don’t want to make anyone else sick.”