LAST year, Marie Muffett was the first person in Scone to have covid-19 and she hopes by sharing her story it helps the community better understand the disease and be less fearful as the virus spreads and more local people contract covid.
Marie was excited to set off on a cruise, and while she was concerned at the news there was a virus from China beginning to spread, she felt assured the ship would take proper precautions and they would be safe at sea.
The ship Marie boarded was the now infamous Ruby Princess, but even as they disembarked they were assured the ship was covid free.
“We were told we could get off the ship, nobody had said there was covid, so they waved us off the ship,” said Marie.
“Sharon (Marie’s daughter) and I took the train home, back to Gosford and Kevin (Marie’s husband) came and picked me up from Gosford and we were home about a day before we all got an email to say that there were positive cases on the ship and we needed to get tested,” she said.
“Well, I got tested on the Monday and on the Wednesday NSW Health rang me and said you’ve tested positive to covid and influenza A. I was told they were going to ring me every day just to see how I was, but that never happened; I think I had about three phone calls in three weeks.
“It was scary when I first got told, I didn’t know whether to cry or what and NSW Health at that stage weren’t very helpful.
“It was sort of all new to them and they just said ‘oh you need to isolate, whoever is in the house with you will need to isolate’; they asked questions about how we got home and who we’d been in contact with,” Marie Muffett said.
Thankfully Kevin had done a grocery shop before Marie returned home, so they hadn’t left the house and Marie was relieved to realise they hadn’t put anyone in the local community at risk.
“When you have covid you don’t feel like eating anything anyway, so we didn’t have to go out for things,” said Marie.
“It makes me shake my head when people are doing big grocery shops, the shops aren’t going to run out of food and when you have covid you just can’t eat,” she said.
“I made sure I was drinking though, I drank lots of water and I went and drank ginger beer, I didn’t lose my taste or smell, but I did find some things I just didn’t want any more.
“My advice is to eat what you can, it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad for you, because you need to keep that energy up.
“You are just constantly tired and fatigued and just didn’t want to do anything, you didn’t want to get out of bed. I’d get up each morning only because I was told get up and have a shower and put clean clothes on and you might feel better, but you just didn’t want to cope I suppose.
“When people say it’s like the flu, it’s not!
“I haven’t had the flu very often, but this will knock you and you can end up with heart conditions, lung conditions and you don’t usually end up with that with the flu.
“They really still don’t know the long-term effects so I don’t know if my lungs have been affected or my heart or anything, they are all ok now, but they don’t know what the long term effects are and they won’t know that until they start doing more research on patients who got over it and seeing how they are.
“Everybody reacts differently to it, it doesn’t matter what age group you are, because I am in my early 60s and everybody reacts differently depending on what your underlying issues are, but then it can hit some fit people harder than unfit people.
“It doesn’t discriminate, that’s one medical condition that hasn’t discriminated against anybody,” said Marie.
Marie said she didn’t feel like she was dying, but her husband became incredibly concerned as she deteriorated.
“Kevin later said he felt like he was watching his wife die and he felt helpless,” Marie said.
“He couldn’t cuddle me, he couldn’t hold me because of the risk of him catching the virus.
“The week of the 18h of April, I just got really tired, I couldn’t breathe properly and it was like a month after we’d been home.
“I was short of breath, giddy and I ended up ringing the doctor, they did my electrolytes and they were skyrocketing so I was then sent to John Hunter Hospital with pneumonia.
“I only had to have the nose tube and I had that for two and a half days, they just pumped me full of drugs, they didn’t have to drain my lungs or anything,” Marie said.
On the Ruby Princess 40 percent of Australian passengers contracted the virus, 20 Australians died from covid and another 8 died overseas.
“The staff kept asking me questions and they kept calling me a celebrity because I survived the Ruby Princess,” said Marie.
“There were a lot of others that survived too, but then there were a lot dead, but for the number of passengers on that cruise there really was about a third that contracted it,” Marie said.
NSW Health had advised Marie that she could stop self-isolating, but she said even though her test was negative, she still had symptoms and Kevin was also still in isolation.
“At the end of the 14 days I still had a cough and you had to be clear for 72 hours with no symptoms before you were allowed to come out of isolation, well that didn’t work, it was Easter Monday when they allowed me to get out of isolation, but I didn’t because I still wasn’t well, not that I had a cough, but I was very tired and they kept say ‘oh yeah’ they were fobbing me off and NSW Health at that stage had no idea, they’re probably better now,” said Marie.
“I ended up having four tests, because the first one was inconclusive then the next two were negative.
“I ended up coming out of isolation twice, but each time I was allowed out, Kevin wasn’t allowed out because he had to do the full 14 days and that was becoming a real pain, anyway they finally cleared us – NSW Health, the hospital and the covid unit, then I had to get a doctor’s certificate,” said Marie.
“I was still exhausted and then in mid-May the doctor said to me they were not going to write any more doctor’s certificates, because they said I was fit enough to go back to work and I just said “you’re kidding me aren’t you?” And they just said, “no you’re fit you can go back to work.”
“When I went back to work last year I was just working part-time, four days a week for about four or five hours,” she said.
“But even now, I am still exhausted and ever since I had covid I still lose my voice.
“If I want to do anything, I have to do it in the morning, because by lunchtime I am too exhausted.
“I’ve had lung x-rays, ultra-sounds, they gave me a whole barrage of tests up until September, but because I didn’t go to the doctor’s constantly I think they sort of forgot about me and thought I was fine.
“My hair was falling out and my doctor said, ‘oh that’s just stress you’re body has gone through’ and I’m thinking it’s probably true, but there’s got to be more to it when you turn around and you’re hearing a lot of other people say they are running their fingers through their hair and lots of lose hair is coming out, so I just got my hair cut short and it’s not doing it now,” she said.
“Some days I just don’t feel like getting out of bed, but you get out of bed because you know you have to. They’ve done some research up on the far north coast, they had two women up there that were really bad with fatigue they couldn’t even get out of bed or do anything. I’m not that bad, but I’ve worked all week this week and I’m buggered, even though I didn’t do full days, it takes a lot out of you,” Marie said.
The local community
The local community were kind to Marie when she had covid and during her recovery.
“I didn’t have anyone negative, obviously the community found out,” said Marie.
“When I was in isolation, I had friends ring me and text me to ask how I was, it was nice.
“I had one of the girls from work drop me off a care package and it had fruit and chocolates and Easter eggs and things and I got flowers dropped off to me as well.
“When I first went down to Coles, the staff there asked if I was ok “we’ve heard you’ve been sick” and that was nice because I was always in Coles the girls found out and would ask if I was ok,” said Marie.
Advice as more local people get covid
When the state opens at 70 percent vaccination rate, the virus will spread and the Premier has told people to brace themselves for climbing case numbers (Read: Premier: Brace for numbers going through the roof and Editorial: Decoding government covid speak – what they really mean)
Marie encourages people to reach out to people when they have covid, get vaccinated and take it easy at the supermarket.
“A care package, an email or a phone call just to see how they are, if they need anything, just be polite and be friendly, just check in and ask if they are ok, if they need anything,” said Marie.
“Even though you can’t go into the place you may be able to make a phone call if they can’t make a phone call and they are unwell, to get a doctor or something like that, or get some food.
“You hear the news and I didn’t want to hear anything, I still don’t want to now, my anxiety level is shocking now, I’m constantly worried, but we also have a vaccine now,” said Marie.
Marie said people rushing to the supermarket and people bulk buying items made no sense, especially as when she had covid she struggled to eat anything.
“It’s stupid! Food is not going to run out people, you don’t need all the toilet paper that you keep wanting, we didn’t buy anything bulk, we didn’t over-shop,” said Marie.
“When we were told we had to go into isolation, he’d already done a shop before I’d arrived home and then we were only buying bits and pieces while I was sick because he was the only one eating, mostly what we brought was bread, cheese, tomato and cold meat – because that’s all he wanted and all I wanted was toast,” Marie Muffett said.
Click and collect is available for people who don’t want to go into the supermarket when numbers of cases rise and there are community organisations such as the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre who can deliver your groceries if you are self-isolating.
“Everybody’s frustrated because they can’t go anywhere, but they have to realise if they get sick they’ve got to protect themselves first and try and do the right thing and get vaccinated,” said Marie.
“These people that say ‘we don’t know what’s going into our system’ well you eat foods that you don’t know what’s in them.
“With this variant it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, if you are doing the right thing, it just seems to jump, this one is a lot more dangerous than the first one.
“They are getting out good reports now about the vaccine and if you’re not real sure talk to your doctor and see what they say, they’ll tell you which one is probably the better one for your medical history, but if you can get it, do it,” she said.
“Get it done as soon as you can, it won’t stop you getting it, but you may not end up in hospital or have too many symptoms,” Marie Muffett said.