One year on: How COVID diagnosis changed coast woman’s life
It was a year ago that Yeppoon’s Hannah Colley boarded a flight home from Dubai as COVID tightened its grip on the world.
Little did she know that within days of arriving back on the Capricorn Coast, she would be diagnosed with the disease, something that would ultimately determine her new career path.
A former Livingstone Shire Council candidate, Hannah had been living in the United Arab Emirates and working as a flight attendant with Emirates for six years when the impacts of the pandemic heightened.
“With the airline getting less and less flights and closing down a lot of destinations, I felt like I didn’t want to stay in Dubai if there was going to be an endless period of lockdown,” she said.
“My parents were pretty worried, and I thought the safest place would be back in Australia.”
Hannah boarded the last flight out of Dubai in late March, and then started two weeks of self-isolation in Yeppoon.
Three days in, she was notified that she had COVID.
“I was in disbelief because I didn’t feel sick at all,” she said.
That would change dramatically within days as Hannah was struck down with a raft of symptoms.
“I got really high blood pressure and a fever,” she said.
“I was at 38 degrees; I was putting ice packs on and they were melting pretty much straight away.
“That went on for three days, but I was just exhausted for 20 days. I was sleeping maybe 19 hours a day, which was very strange for me.”
Hannah’s stress and anxiety grew as she realised the seriousness of her situation.
She was at a crossroads – no job, no income and her life as she knew it was gone.
But through the clouds of uncertainty, an exciting business idea dawned.
Hannah had started drinking and was selling Japanese matcha green tea as a hobby while working as a flight attendant after learning of its health benefits from one of her passengers.
The tea is high in anti-oxidants and is promoted among other things as boosting brain function, enhancing heart health and aiding weight loss.
Hannah drank it during her battle with COVID which, she said, aided her recovery.
“I wouldn’t wish this virus on anyone, but it provided an opportunity for clarity,” she said.
“I knew I had to act quickly and plan for the future, so I established the Matecha Organic Green Tea Store online.
“I decided I wouldn’t go back to Dubai – Emirates ended up giving me a redundancy anyway - and I would give this online business a real go.
“I work directly with an organic firm in Japan. I had a translator who, when I first became obsessed with matcha, would go around and send me a lot of different samples from different farms.
“I product tested for two years but I never really thought I would have the courage to leave a paid job to pursue something that started as a hobby.”
It appears the bold move is paying off for Hannah.
Cafes in Central Queensland are now selling her product, as too are cafes on the Gold Coast.
She was recently in Tasmania looking to expand her sales network.
In a three-week period in February, she sold about $2000 worth of product from her website.
Hannah said she was enjoying her foray into the business world.
“I have no medical side effects from my case of COVID and I am focusing on building my business,” she said.
“It hasn’t been easy, but nothing good ever is.
“My brand is growing and, as much as it’s hard work, it’s exciting and I know it’s going to benefit people, so it is a really great experience.”
Visit Hannah’s Matcha Organic Green Tea Store at matechagreentea.com.