When Karina Haira, a young mother from Hamilton, first caught Covid, she thought she could get the better of it, no problems.

“I just thought, I can beat this. It’s just the flu,” said the 37-year-old. Karina is an active asthmatic who played a lot of sport. She has never smoked and doesn’t take drugs.

However, six days after testing positive for Covid-19 in November, her condition suddenly deteriorated. Initially, chills and body ache developed into a high fever. She quickly became bed ridden and couldn’t breathe properly.

After admission to hospital, the days became a blur. She could hear chatter regarding the intensive care unit but really had no idea what was going on. She was told her lungs had collapsed.

“That’s when I realised, oh shoot this is real,” she said.

Haira has now turned a corner and spoke to the New Zealand Herald from hospital on day 20 of her Covid infection. She fought for her life in the ICU for roughly 4-5 days when she nearly had to be put into an induced coma because her lungs were failing. Her fever was 39°C and the doctors just could not bring it down.

“I’m a pretty strong woman … when I put my mind to things I get it done. But this time round I was scared, really scared,” said the mother of five who works in traffic management.

The hardest part was not being able to see and touch her children. “I had a meeting with my children and family on video call, and the pain I saw in their hearts, we were all crying.

“Last week I was running around playing touch, and this week we were even making funeral plans.

“As dramatic as that sounds, that’s pretty much something the doctor had mentioned I might want to put into place.”

One of her kid’s sports coaches had suggested she post a Facebook video to share her story with others when she was first diagnosed.

Haira did, and that was the start of a series of live broadcasts that would track her battle with Covid-19 as her condition deteriorated, getting likes, comments and shares from hundreds of people.

“Bro, this is not just the flu,” Haira said in a video post taken on day 14 of her illness, panting despite having a tube in her nose that helped her to breathe.

“If I take this out right now, I can’t breathe, at all … It’s like my lung disappeared.”

On day 20, the doctors finally took off her oxygen mask. “I can actually inhale quite deep without it hurting and feeling like I’m being cut in my throat or cut in my lungs,” she said. “Just walking around my room I get a little bit tired.”

Her husband and two of her children, both teenagers, were also infected but did not develop severe symptoms. They are now recovering in home isolation.

She plans to get the whole family vaccinated as soon as possible. The doctors have advised her to wait at least four weeks after she is fully recovered to get the jab.

“Never ever do I want to go through this again, never ever do I want my kids to get it,” she said.

Haira is not anti-vax, she says. Her mother had vaccinated them as children so the vaccine itself was never an issue. She was unvaccinated but had been speaking about it with her GP. She was what she called “anti-Covid”.

“I didn’t believe it was real,” she says. “I know there was proof in the media, but I just didn’t know anybody personally that had it, that could say to me, yup Covid’s real, this is what happened.”

She decided to be “that person” with her Facebook “lives”, hoping it would reach someone, anyone who was listening.

“Once I ended up in hospital that’s when I thought, I’m that person that used to say Covid’s a lie. I’m going to post this, and I went from there.”

Her social media feed became inundated with messages and comments responding to her Covid story and she is feeling quite overwhelmed, she says. Out of ICU but still in hospital, she plans to hit the beach with her children once she is well.

Images: Facebook / Karina Haira 

This article first appeared on Over60.