Havelock North woman barely able to walk after drinking contaminated water

A year ago, Havelock North woman Carol Hessell was a keen walker, and enjoyed gardening and playing with her grandchild.

That all changed in August when the 63-year-old drank water from the tap contaminated with campylobacter.

"I was going from both ends and it went on continuously for 10 days," she told Newshub.

"I was classed as intensive care status but there was no room for me in intensive care, so I was isolated in a ward."

A few months later, the illness developed into reactive arthritis.

Ms Hessell now has constant pain in her joints and has to use a walker to get around. Without it, she can barely walk a few metres.

"If you're having a particularly bad day of pain, it's very tiring and you think, 'When is this going to end?' or 'is it going to end?'," she said.

Ms Hessell and husband Alan are full-time carers to their two grandchildren aged four and 15. Her illness has been a huge strain on the family.

"I don't feel that I can give the little one some of the attention that she needs because of it," she said.

"I used to sit and play with her ... we still play but it's very limited with what I can do with her now."

Symptoms from reactive arthritis generally last about six months but can persist much longer for some.

The contamination in August saw 5500 people - a third of the town's population - became ill with gastro after sheep faeces got into the water supply.

Three deaths were linked to the outbreak and the same number contracted Guillain Barre Syndrome, a serious neurological disorder.

Last week it was revealed many elderly are still suffering, six months after the contamination.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board told Newshub it isn't known exactly how many developed reactive arthritis, but estimates put the figure at about 70, while up to 240 have similar symptoms such as painful joints.

Hawke's Bay Hospital chief medical officer Dr John Gommans said there are others.

"There's the fragile elderly groups who have less reserves than you and I to cope with an illness, and they get knocked by the illness, and for some of them they don’t actually really get back to where they were," he said.

Ms Hessell told Newshub she's speaking out because she feels those suffering long-term have been forgotten.

She's also fed up with the Hastings District Council, saying their response was slow and they need to stop shifting the blame.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said while he's sympathetic with Ms Hessell's situation, the inquiry earlier this month had been told it was highly unlikely the council was at fault.

“We haven't forgotten and what we are looking at now is some type of welfare relief for people that have long term symptoms," he said.

Those in Ms Hessell's situation aren't entitled to ACC, so the funds would likely come from taxpayers.

The water contamination inquiry finished hearing from witnesses at the Hastings District Court last week. The panel are expected to hand their report to the Government by March 31.