Taking a breath without the help of medical equipment after a life and death battle with Covid-19 felt like "winning the lotto" for Conyn Halligan.
The Ngāti Maniapoto man contracted Covid-19 earlier this month, being hospitalised at Waikato Hospital.
On Saturday he will be able to celebrate Christmas - albeit on his own as he needs to isolate for a further week by himself.
But it is Christmas which Halligan feels lucky to be here for, telling the Herald that at the worst time he was battling the virus he had felt "broken", struggled to breathe and what drove him on was "trying to survive" for his family.
Having the virus felt "suffocating", as if he had a tonne of bricks on his chest.
"It's like trying to breathe through a straw while drowning," he said.
In the early hours of one December morning, Halligan woke at home struggling to breathe.
"I couldn't breathe. I started coughing up blood, spewing up blood, a lot of phlegm and fluid," he said.
He called an ambulance and was taken to hospital where he tested positive for Covid-19 and received HDU care. He struggled to sleep and found using the hospital breathing device a real challenge.
"It's pretty much like getting a leaf-blower and blowing it straight into your mouth. That's what it's like."
Being in hospital, with the Covid-19 protocols in place and staff in PPE gear was "overwhelming" and like something you see in the movies, he said.
But he was thankful for the staff that cared for him – describing them as the "best people".
"They were so caring. Anything I needed; they would do it. Anything to cheer me up. In a way, they felt like family."
Halligan was preparing to be discharged yesterday when he spoke to the Herald, after returning a negative test and starting to feel like "his usual self" again.
"After all this, taking a deep breath felt like winning the lotto to me. Being able to breathe...we take that for granted so much, it felt awesome."
However, he's frustrated he won't be able to spend Christmas with his whānau as he had hoped because he has been told he needs to isolate for another week at home away from them.
"I don't have any symptoms, and I'm testing negative now, it makes no sense. But I've got to follow precaution; it is what it is."
Halligan said he doesn't know where he caught the virus and had been cautious – wearing a mask, social distancing from others and even ordering groceries online to avoid visiting the supermarket.
But he says he was also "a bit sceptical" about Covid-19 before he caught it himself and hadn't been vaccinated after he says he was cautioned over some underlying health conditions.
He's eager now to get fully vaccinated – and has chosen to share his story to show people how serious the virus can be.
"It's not a conspiracy, it's real. It's there," he said.
Halligan's whānau – including his partner and children – were his motivation to fight the virus in hospital.
"I've been detailing on my journey and updating my whānau on social media so they do know this is real. It's not a joke. It's not a bloody hoax. I'm a bloody big strong man and here's me broken down, can't even breathe, trying to survive for my whānau."
Yesterday, New Zealand again recorded a sub - 100 tally of fresh cases yesterday.
There were 56 new community cases; 42 in Auckland, four in Waikato, six in the Bay of Plenty, two in the Lakes district, one in Taranaki and one case that was detected in Tairāwhiti is now in Tauranga.
Forty-eight people were in hospital, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said, across Auckland, Waikato and Tauranga. Seven were in ICU.
Forty-nine people who have Covid-19 had died in New Zealand since it arrived on our shores early last year.