An accomplished gymnast from Nottingham, who has been shielding since March 2020 due to a rare condition, has told how she received her first vaccination and is urging others in a similar situation to take their first step to freedom by getting their jab too.
Natasha Coates, of Nuthall, suffers from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), a rare condition that affects the immune system and causes it to overreact to the smallest triggers, potentially leading to life-threatening allergic reactions.
Last month, Natasha received her first dose of the Covid vaccine at City Hospital and she wants to encourage others to get vaccinated.
The 26-year-old says: “Know that it’s ok to feel apprehensive about getting vaccinated; you’re not alone in feeling that way.
“All precautions are taken when you get your vaccine, and the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the minimal risk of catching the virus in a controlled environment. Try to focus on the positives and the little things you’re looking forward to, as well as the vulnerable people who will benefit when you get vaccinated.
Natasha continues: “The only way we are going to get out of this difficult situation is by working together and by looking after each other.”
Natasha is no stranger to Nottingham University Hospitals.
Anything from catching a cough, the smell of perfume or even a strong emotion can cause Natasha to suffer a devastating allergic reaction, resulting in a trip to visit the Resuscitation team at the Queen’s Medical Centre.
Natasha, who has a string of elite disability gymnastic accolades to her name, was diagnosed with MCAS six years ago.
She has been shielding since the start of the pandemic, and typically does all she can to avoid a hospital visit and carefully manages her condition.
Facemasks and hand sanitiser were a part of Natasha’s day-to-day life long before they became household items for everyone else.
She says: “I was wearing face masks before they were in fashion.”
However, last month, Natasha eagerly awaited a trip to City Hospital. On 9 February Natasha received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca, at City Hospital.
She says: “I got the vaccine two days after I turned 26, so it was like a late birthday present.”
Due to her condition, Natasha has been shielding at home with her parents, Ian and Adele, since 16th March 2020.
Even though Natasha manages her condition carefully, she can still suffer allergic reactions at home.
Until last month, the only time Natasha has left home since March 2020 has been for emergency trips to the Queen’s Medical Centre, after she has suffered a reaction too severe to manage at home, such as an anaphylactic reaction.
When Natasha’s turn to be vaccinated arrived, she was understandably apprehensive about leaving her house, having been shielding for so long.
She says: “I felt like I had missed out on the world and that I didn’t know what was happening.
“But, it was all very normal when I got out there and not as overwhelming as I thought it would be.”
Natasha, who was accompanied by her mum at her vaccination appointment, says: “I did my research and made the decision that I felt safe enough, and that I wanted to do it.
“I wanted my life back.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous. There are so many unknowns with my condition. But I was more excited than nervous.
“After my vaccination I sat with the nurse for half an hour to make sure there was no severe reaction. My face was a little bit flushed and warm, and my tongue had a bit of swelling, but that is nothing abnormal for me.”
Natasha has nothing but praise for the staff she encountered on the day at the vaccination hub.
She says: “They were fabulous. Ann, the nurse who did the vaccination, sat with me and was really lovely.
“Other staff came to check on me. They’d pop their head round the door to check I wasn’t causing any trouble. Everyone was really nice and stayed safely distanced; it felt very safe.
“The staff did a good job of putting people at ease; it was a relaxed, positive, environment and it wasn’t stressful.
“It was a really smooth process at the hospital. I went in, filled out my paperwork, spoke to the doctor, and then I sat down and had my jab.
“It was really well run and I had my jab within ten minutes of arriving at the hospital.”
With her first Covid-19 vaccination complete and the second due in April, Natasha is now thinking about the future.
She says: “I’m looking forward to going back to church, attending my gymnastic club again and all those little things too, like going out for a coffee and seeing friends.
“A big part of choosing to have the vaccine was about not wanting to live in fear anytime I left the house.”
Natasha has refused to let her condition prevent her from becoming an accomplished gymnast.
She got into gymnastics aged eight, and later won her first British title in 2014. Natasha, who ordinarily trains at Robin Hood Gymnastics Club in Sherwood, Nottingham, has gone on to win a total of 22 British titles and 38 British medals as an elite disability gymnast.
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