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Long Covid: Taking a toll here in West Norfolk

Two long Covid sufferers have come forward to tell their story.

One of those is eight-year-old Zachary Chapman who has been left desperately ill after twice contracting.

While another is Fakenham bus driver Michael Hobbs, 49.

Zachary Chapman, 8
Zachary Chapman, 8

The Lynn News spoke to Mr Hobbs back in January when reporter Eve Tawfick was allowed exclusive access to Covid wards at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn.

Mr Hobbs was on a CPAP machine struggling to breathe as he told us that he had a family at home.

Now, three months later, Michael has been discharged from hospital, but explains he “nearly didn’t make it”.

Michael Hobbs, 49, of Fakenham in QEH (45964618)
Michael Hobbs, 49, of Fakenham in QEH (45964618)

The soon-to-be grandfather said: “The last thing I remember is the Lynn News interview. I was then induced into a coma and put on a ventilator. They didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Kristy Chapman, 33, a business owner from Burnham Market, tells us about her ordeal with eight-year-old son Zachary, who has caught Covid twice.

Long Covid is characterised by persistent symptoms lasting longer than five weeks, according to the NHS.

This can include shortness of breath, trouble walking, severe exhaustion and even depression. According to the ONS, as of March 1.1 million people in the UK are suffering from long Covid.

Coronavirus (45978830)
Coronavirus (45978830)

Some are wheelchair bound and have suffered a myriad of symptoms for an excess of nine months.

Ms Chapman said: “Zachary caught Covid at the start of the pandemic last year and suffered double pneumonia. He was in hospital for weeks but thankfully didn’t need ventilation.

“When he was discharged he was exhausted and just not the same little boy. He has no pre-existing health conditions.”

Although Zachary’s little brother Henry, five, has a rare genetic disorder he has not suffered from the virus.

Ms Chapman said: “Both times the virus hit Zachary hard. We were devastated when he caught it a second time in December. Doctors assumed it was a new strain.”

Day to day life has changed dramatically for Zachary, who now can’t live life like a normal young boy.

He is back at school but it is “exhausting” for him.

His mother told the Lynn News: “Life has changed for all of us. If Zachary goes outside for any length of time he is wiped out for days. It’s been so hard for us.

“Especially with losing business during the pandemic, life has been tough.

“We don’t know what the prognosis is for Zachary and hope he recovers.

“He wants to warn others about what he’s gone through. He doesn’t understand why children don’t have the vaccine or wear masks.

“This virus doesn’t discriminate, and as you can see, catching it once doesn’t mean you can’t catch it again.

“I won’t hide him away, and when restrictions lift we will try to live life as normally as possible, but I hope people pay attention to stories like Zachary’s and follow the rules.”

Severe cases of Covid in children are rare, but examples like Zachary’s demonstrate that there is still much to learn.

about this mystery virus.

Many are not concerned with their children catching cCovid19 and vaccines for under 16’s are not part of the mass vaccination program. Children under-12 do not have to wear masks in the supermarket or at school.

For Michael Hobbs, a 49-year-old Fakenham bus driver, coronavirus has turned into a living nightmare.

Despite the best efforts of the hardworking medics at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mr Hobbs’ life has changed completely since having Covid-19 and he still isn’t able to use his voice properly.

He met our reporter Eve Tawfick when she interviewed patients but after that he dramatically worsened.

He said: “I was then induced into a coma and put on a ventilator. They didn’t think I was going to make it.”

He said: “Being in the coma was terrifying, it felt like being in a dream or underwater, I could hear voices around me but couldn’t communicate.

“The nurses fed me, bathed me and everything in-between, I couldn’t do anything for myself and they would turn me every few hours to make sure I didn’t get bed sores. I eventually was able to communicate by moving my finger.”

Mr Hobbs was on ventilation and had to have a tracheotomy to keep him alive.

He said: “I wouldn’t wish my experience on my worst enemy. I’m glad it was me that suffered and not another member of my family. I’m lucky that I made it, although at one point I nearly didn’t. I got to go home and hug my kids.”

Mr Hobbs spent weeks looking up at the ceiling in ICU.

Finally, on March 26 he was allowed to go home.

He left hospital to a standing ovation and upon returning home his neighbours and friends clapped and cheered.

Mr Hobbs said a big motivation for getting better is his first grandchild, who is due this year.

He said: “It’s a big motivation for getting better. It’s my first grandchild so I want to be there for them.

“Having the experience I’ve had and now suffering the after effects of long Covid has changed how I see life.

“Coming home has had it’s own set of challenges. I still can’t walk properly and I’m not fit enough to go back to work.

“My work have been fantastic in their support. My family and friends have also been brilliant and it has made me realise how lucky I am in this world.”

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