A Wanaka woman who nearly died from Covid-19 in London last year says New Zealanders are lucky to have escaped “the deaths”.
Emma Prentice, now living back in New Zealand, was one of the first of those who had contracted the virus to give blood to a new University of Otago study into Covid-19 and urged others to do the same.
“If it helps the New Zealand population and the world to better understand Covid-19, then it is an easy thing to do.”
Prentice was teaching at Chepstow House School in West London in late March last year when the virus was “ripping through London” as well as her workplace.
What she initially thought was a bad cold and cough had her bedridden by week’s end.
“My sisters who are both nurses were taking it in turns to ring me from New Zealand morning and night.
“When my breathing became very laboured they told me to pack a bag and write down all my medications and allergies on a sheet of paper because if I got carted out I was not going to be able to tell anyone.”
It was two weeks before Prentice could get out of bed, a month before she could go for a walk and four months until she had totally recovered.
“People at the stage of the illness that I was were dying, but I was too tired to care.
“I just wanted to lie in my bed with no bright lights and no noise, but looking back I was way sicker than I realised.”
Prentice returned to New Zealand on December 27 and her sister told her about “Cantata”, a new Government-funded study into Covid-19 headed by Professor Chris Pemberton at the Translational Biodiscovery Laboratory in the University of Otago’s Christchurch Heart Institute.
Professor Chris Pemberton. Photo / Supplied via Otago University
The study aims to test up to 3000 New Zealanders aged from 10 to 80 over the next three years to find out if they have been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies.
Pemberton said early indications in some areas estimated as many as 50 per cent of people who had had Covid-19 were not aware they had had it.
The study’s team also wanted to find out if those clinically diagnosed with Covid-19 still had antibodies in their bloodstreams and how long the antibodies lasted.
“Emma will be a very interesting case as it is now 16 months since she was exposed to Covid.”
Pemberton said monitoring heart health was also important.
Studies had shown the same markers used to diagnose a heart attack were elevated in severe Covid-19 patients, suggesting some cardiac tissue had been damaged or died.
Prentice, who spent 19 years in London, said everyone in the United Kingdom had been affected by Covid-19 to some degree, “from knowing someone who has been really sick, got long Covid or died from it”.
Emma Prentice, now of Wanaka, was bedridden by Covid and it was a month before she could walk again. Photo / Kerrie Waterworth, ODT
She said New Zealand was in a unique position where only a small number of people had been exposed to the virus, meaning the country had escaped “the deaths”.