Struggling to breathe as the virus attacked her lungs, Tamara Gillan tried not to panic.
Having arrived in Blenheim three days before lockdown she had fled the UK to be with her family in what she hoped would be a safer environment.
But in a cruel twist of fate, she became one of 49 people across Nelson Marlborough District Health board to be diagnosed with COVID-19.
Now mainly recovered, the grateful business owner is paying tribute to the team of healthcare workers who cared for her and her mother – well known Marlburian Toni Gillan, who medics believe also had the virus.
“They were amazing. We were called every day and they went through our symptoms with us.
“It was quite psychologically draining and to hear their friendly voices was very reassuring,” Tamara says.
When her symptoms worsened and she laboured to breath, the knowledge that help was just a call away was calming, she says.
“I was so breathless; like someone was standing on my chest.
“I knew that if I needed to, I could go to the hospital. That was calming as in London there might not be ventilators or beds, but I knew here I would get really amazing care.”
Founder and chief at marketing agency Cherry London and of the WealthiHer network, entrepreneur Tamara opted to come to New Zealand to be with her parents.
She thought the air quality would be better in Marlborough and safer for her 5-year-old son who suffers from lung issues after he was born prematurely.
They arrived in Blenheim two weeks after Toni had visited them in London in early March.
But on Toni’s return to New Zealand, she got a call from the Ministry of Health’s tracing team.
A patient sitting in front of her on the flight back had tested positive for COVID-19. While her test was negative, Toni’s case was treated as probable, especially when Tamara fell ill too.
“I’m not a good patient but I knew I had to treat it with the respect it deserves. It was like I was at the bottom of the ocean and couldn’t breathe.
“The Public Health team here have just been spectacular,” she says.
“This is just heart breaking for the whole world and I feel hugely privileged to be here as people are just not getting the same level of testing in the UK.
“They also checked with a paediatrician about my son and consulted an immunologist as well as finding things to help keep him amused.
“I’m so grateful.”
Tamara wants to especially acknowledge and thank Nelson Marlborough Health clinical director Stephen Bridgman, public health nurse Karen Aitken, medical officer of health Andrew Lindsay and health protection officer Evan McKenzie.