Soosie Lazenby, owner of StretchLab and Club Pilates in Wellesley’s Linden Square, is used to being the picture of health. So when the wellness proponent contracted COVID-19 this spring, it was an adjustment to say the least. Her lung capacity was so reduced that activities she once took for granted turned into a struggle.
“I’m fine now,” she says, “But as I was getting better, it took a long time. The first time I played tennis I lasted 7 minutes. Now I can go for a match.”
Her fight with the respiratory illness started after she flew to Belleair, Fla., from Wellesley on March 14. Within three days she was in the emergency room complaining of discomfort. “I felt like someone was sitting on my chest,” she said, “It wasn’t like asthma. This was different.” Doctors tested her for the flu, prescribed a chest x-ray, and swabbed her nasal passages. When Lazenby got the call later that day that the swab test came back positive for COVID, she and her husband and business partner George Spowart settled in at home for what they both hoped would be a mild case of the virus.
Within ten days Lazenby was admitted to the hospital. “I was having difficulty breathing. I wasn’t intubated, but I still worried that I’d take a turn for the worse. I slept a lot. I didn’t have much energy. My friends FaceTimed me to keep my spirits up.”
Her experience with COVID didn’t end once she was released from the hospital. Lazenby says she’s had a range of encounters with people from those who scoff at the virus to those who are afraid of her, even though she’s been negative for months. “At times I felt like I had a scarlet ‘C’ on my chest,” she says. “Some people are frightened to the extreme, some people don’t even believe it exists.”
The wary she can tolerate. “Some people just don’t realize that COVID doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just a nursing home problem.”
It’s the COVID deniers that frustrate her. “It’s annoying. There are some ignorant people out there.”
Even Lazenby’s hospital didn’t want to see her for a physician-ordered CT angiogram to take a good look at her lungs. “It was really embarrassing because they freaked out. It’s not like I have leprosy. You’d think they’d know what to do with me, but they didn’t.”
Now she carries papers with her that prove she’s COVID-free. “I got an antibody test. I carry those results with me that I was positive for antibodies. I’m immune now, from the mutation I had, anyway.”
With this health scare behind her, Lazenby has returned her focus to her businesses — StretchLab, which helps clients increase their range of motion and flexibility and decrease pain and muscle tension through regular, targeted stretching, and Club Pilates. Both spots have reopened with new safety measures such as reduced class sizes, regular equipment sanitizing, and social distancing to ensure the health of their clients.
Lazenby says vigilance is the watchword at her studios. “Members really were missing the community of their workouts. But I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”
Through it all, Lazenby considers herself lucky. She gets asked all the time how she contracted COVID, but has no answer. “The plane? Walking around? There’s no blame. It’s a virus. People need to be tolerant of those who have had it.”
As for her husband, he’s been tested too, and came back negative. “My doctor wants his immune system,” Lazenby laughs.
It’s been a long haul for Lazenby, but the woman who has the dubious distinction of being medically known as Patient Zero in Bellaire, Fla., is back in action.