This is what long Covid looks like and the toll it has taken on Sharyn Gallagher, 57.
Living on a lifestyle block west of Christchurch at West Melton, the once fit and healthy wife and mother caught covid in March last year.
Now exactly 16 months later, Gallagher weighs just 45kg, suffers stomach aches and nausea and has very little energy or strength, and is now worried about what a Covid-19 vaccine will do to her already ravaged body.
Sharyn fell ill on the 27th of March 2020 the day after New Zealand was plunged into its first lockdown.
“It took three phone calls to the doctor before they would even test me,” Gallagher told John MacDonald on Canterbury Mornings on Newstalk ZB.
“Because I didn’t have a temperature, they didn’t think I had it but I did, and I was very unwell for about six weeks.”
The virus had attacked her digestive system, not her lungs, and she has suffered ongoing issues ever since. “It hit me like a tonne of bricks,” she told the Herald. “I came good until about August and then back downhill.”
At the time Sharyn admitted she was scared. “There were not the systems in place then like there are now.” She even recalls turning on the television at night during lockdown watching people in Italy and Spain dropping dead in the streets.
“It’s really scary having this inside you, not really knowing the consequences will be,” she said.
Her husband and son are builders and they too caught Covid-19 around the same time. Her 28-year-old son Jacob was very sick for five days. Husband Don, 57, lost a lot of strength and took six months to come right.
“I lost a lot of weight and I am unable to put any weight back on still.”
Today, she can’t walk her dogs, gets exhausted getting the groceries. “I literally have to sit down or I’m going to fall down,” she added.
Gallagher recently registered to get a Covid vaccine but “cancelled it at the 11th hour”.
“If I hadn’t had the virus, I would definitely get it,” she told the Herald. But “because I have had it, I’m getting very anxious about how [I] will react to it coming into my body.”
She has since enrolled in a New Zealand research programme looking into long Covid, its effects, and antibodies, curious to find out if she has any immunity.
She wants to get more information before getting a vaccine and is “concerned about how it will affect me”,
Despite her own fears, Gallagher recommends everyone signs up for a vaccine and “definitely get it”.
In the meantime, she just wants her life back.
“This is not just the normal flu, it’s not funny and not fake, it is a different beast altogether.”
Over the past 16 months, there have been times when she has suffered from mental health and has been “quite down”.
“I am still very thin, I definitely don’t do a lot of the things I used to do but I have a really good supportive family unit around me has been my saving grace really, I am grateful for that.”
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