Help The Hungry: How food deliveries gave musician a ‘real lifeline’ after coronavirus left her unable to cook

Shay Khan says she felt like she was at death’s door while alone and scared in her flat during the illness

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A struggling musician who felt like she was at “death’s door” due to coronavirus has told how receiving daily meals through the Help The Hungry campaign has been a “real lifeline”.

Shay Khan, 40, said she “couldn’t walk”, felt weak and dizzy and had to “remember to breathe” at the height of her battle.

The Hackney-based artist, who lives alone with her two cats Suki and Kiki, said she felt like she was at “death’s door” and was “really alone and scared” in her flat during the illness.

She has been receiving daily hot meals through Made In Hackney, one of the charities supplied by The Felix Project, the partner of our Help The Hungry appeal, which we launched to help those going hungry in the pandemic.

Ms Khan, who has arthritis and has suffered from long bouts of anaemia in the past, said: “It started six weeks ago when I had some symptoms. I was having a Zoom drink with a friend and it got to a stage where I was so exhausted. I thought maybe I was just a bit hungover or was in a weird mood but then it continued and I felt exhausted the next night on another Zoom call.”

Her condition deteriorated rapidly. “I was having to consciously remember to breathe,” she added. “My lungs hurt. It was really scary. I was an alien for a while, I could barely speak. I wasn’t sure if I would make it.”

Ms Khan rang 111, who told her to wait it out at home and see if she got worse. But within days, she said she couldn’t even walk. “I felt weak and dizzy. I couldn’t move at all, I was just on the sofa, trying to remember to breathe. I thought I might be having a heart attack or a stroke. My left side felt numb.”

A friend called 999 on her behalf and medics came to her home. Ms Khan said: “They checked my vitals and they were happy enough with me. My oxygen levels were OK and they said it might be that I was fatigued.

Shay Khan has been using Made In Hackney for about three weeks

“They said sometimes people get another blow when they are almost over the virus and that is what probably happened to me. It felt like an exorcism.” At the peak of her illness, Ms Khan went online to seek help. The artist, whose mother is in her seventies and is isolating so could not provide support, found out about Help The Hungry via Facebook, where she was connected with Made In Hackney.

For the past three weeks, the musician has been receiving daily meals via the organisation. The service has made her life “so much easier”, she said.

“When I got sick I had no one I could ask for help,” she said. “I found the Covid-19 Hackney Facebook support group and I messaged Made In Hackney. They have really helped. I am on universal credit as I am meant to be launching my music career, but that has taken a back seat now.

“I have been using Made In Hackney for about three weeks. I have a daily meal, like tofu curry. I can’t cook at the moment, I am not strong enough, especially with my arthritis my body is just not in a good way. I am still exhausted. It has been a real lifeline to know I will be fed once a day.”

Ms Khan is slowly on the mend but says her previous conditions have worsened. However, she said the deliveries had helped alleviate the feeling of loneliness.

The Independent is encouraging readers to help groups that are trying to feed the hungry across the country – find out how you can help here. Follow this link to donate to our campaign in London, in partnership with the Evening Standard.

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