Leeds widow and long Covid sufferer speak out on impact of virus two years after first Leeds Covid death

Andrew Connolly and Sue Kelk have had their lives torn apart in the pandemic.

By Abbey Maclure
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 4:45 am

Andrew is still suffering with the debilitating symptoms of long Covid, more than 17 months after contracting the virus, while Sue is grieving the loss of her beloved husband Jason.

Today marks two years since coronavirus took its first victim in Leeds.

And Jason is one of more than 2,000 people in the city who have lost their lives to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

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Jason and Sue Kelk, pictured together during one of Jason's trips outside St James' Hospital

"Losing Jason changed everything," Sue, 64, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"I didn't think I would outlive him as I'm 14 years older than him. The fact he's gone before me is horrible. It's like losing a limb.

"We didn't think he would make his 49th birthday, so when he did we were planning for his 50th this year.

"It was snatched away from us, one minute he was doing really well, then six weeks later he'd died."

Sue Kelk, from Seacroft, who lost her husband Jason, 49, in June 2021. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Jason died in June 2021 after spending the previous nearly 15 months in St James’ Hospital, having been admitted with Covid in March 2020.

Sue, a grandmother-of-10, said his death has had a huge impact on her family, particularly Jason's elderly mum and dad and his sister, as well as the wider Seacroft community.

She urged people to continue to take the virus seriously, amid a sharp rise in the number of infections in Leeds.

"I feel upset that so many people have lost their lives," Sue added.

Andrew Connolly, 49, who has been battling the symptoms of long Covid after being infected with the virus in October 2020 (Photo: Steve Riding)

"You don't hear as much about Covid now, but figures are going up. I think you've got to be careful.

"Yes, it's not as bad as it is - we've got vaccinations and we're a lot more knowledgeable about it.

"But it's still out there and there's still very vulnerable people out there."

Andrew echoed Sue's pleas to take caution as he continues to battle the debilitating symptoms of long Covid.

Before contracting the virus in October 2020, he was the "fittest he'd ever been", a keen mountain biker who could run around with his 10-year-old daughter.

But all that changed when he failed to bounce back from the initial short illness, struggling with brain fog, severe fatigue, constant nausea, bouts of insomnia, body aches, back ache and weight loss.

As Andrew spoke to the YEP, he was taking respite from a family christening in his car, feeling exhausted from the event.

“The fatigue is still going on,” the 49-year-old said.

“I can’t stay out for too long and if I do, I really pay the price for a few days afterwards.

“I’m a lot quieter than I was, not intentionally, but because I feel so tired. And the frustrating part is that on the outside I look fine.

“I caught Covid again in January and it was like someone had hit the reset button. It’s a vicious circle that I can’t seem to break out of.

“I want to get back on my mountain bike but I can’t even walk to the top of the stairs properly.”

Andrew praised the support of the Leeds Covid After-Care team which helped him to realise he wasn't alone.

“When I got this nobody knew long Covid existed," Andrew added.

"The clinic helped me to know I wasn’t going mad. Talking to other people who have the same issues made such a difference to my wellbeing.

“My advice now is to be really careful. I never dreamt it would affect me like this or that by now I’d still be feeling the debilitating effects."

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