A woman who spent days in intensive care after contracting Covid-19 is urging everyone to get vaccinated, warning the infection is so awful she could barely breathe.
South Auckland resident Ligi Harris, 52, is marking a year since being stricken with the deadly virus as it started spreading out of control across New Zealand.
The career development consultant is thankful she survived after being admitted to Middlemore Hospital's intensive care unit in the middle of the night, gasping for breath. After her brush with Covid, she is certain the lockdown not only saved lives but spared many from a horror illness.
It remains a mystery where or how she contracted the infection, with doctors initially refusing to test her after she failed to meet early strict criteria around swab eligibility.
However, her high temperature changed their minds, and two days later she was confirmed as a positive community case.
Harris said Covid was by the worst illness she had ever experienced, unable to take steps without collapsing and struggling to get enough air into her lungs.
"I thought it was the flu. I took Panadol but the sign for me was that my health started deteriorating really quickly. I was losing my hair, I couldn't smell food, I couldn't eat anything.
"I was refused by the doctor to be tested because I didn't fit their criteria of being an overseas traveller, until he checked my temperature which set off alarm bells."
She was initially confined to her room at home but her health took a dire turn over the next few days and she became unable to keep down food, her hair starting to fall out, with a persistent cough, constant fatigue and a fever that wouldn't break.
"By Wednesday 2am, that's when the virus entered my lungs and my breathing ... I couldn't ... even one or two steps, and even dressing myself, it was very difficult. Every physical movement was a chore. I couldn't sleep and started to get chest pains."
At this point she was admitted to Middlemore Hospital, becoming the first person in South Auckland to need treatment.
"I was taken straight to ICU and put on the oxygen," recalled Harris.
"The worst was when I was in hospital in ICU on April 1. The first three days in hospital was really bad for me. I had lost consciousness but I had a lot of support and monitoring."
She said her health woes were compounded by the stigma attached to her condition.
"I had nurses where you could just feel the fear. I even asked not to have one nurse because in terms of my mana I could feel that person was scared and I could pick it up. I needed somebody who was really positive and encouraging."
After a four-day stint under quarantine in hospital she was discharged, and finished her recovery at home where she continued to self-isolate and even starting a new job at the Tertiary Education Commission the very next day.
"I was laid up on my bed, on my phone and introduced to my team but they didn't know I had Covid until a bit later. That was my first day at work."
She said a year on she is certain the government move to announce a lockdown as a means to curb the pandemic spread prevented more people contracting the infection.
"I really believe a year ago those measures really helped me to stop spreading it," she said.
In the fortnight before falling ill she had taken a number of sessions training workers at Auckland Airport before flying south to Wellington.
She recalls being in a packed plane and koru lounge alongside many others who were racing back to New Zealand ahead of the pending lockdown. But there remains no one episode where she can pinpoint coming into contact with an ill person.
Harris still marvels that other family members in her household remained well throughout.
"My mum is considered one of the vulnerable - she's 77 - she didn't get infected so that was a real miracle."
Now, with the advent of the vaccine coupled with misinformation spreading throughout the community, Harris was keen to share how Covid landed her in hospital for days.
"I wanted to tell my story because that's the alternative when you don't get a vaccine. Covid is real and this is the reality if you do get it.
"I understand people have reservations about vaccines - I don't want to preach to them but I want people to be informed and wanted to share my story as an alternative about what can happen if you didn't get a vaccine."
She said it concerned her that there were still people in the community who would say there was no such thing as Covid.
Since recovering she had not experienced any major ongoing health issues apart from bouts of tiredness and anxiety.
"I've been really fortunate," she said.
"But I wouldn't want for your loved ones to go through what I experienced. Covid-19 is not a friend."