For two years, Anamia King questioned the reality of Covid-19 and its effects on people. Then late last month, the personal devastation of a Covid infection hit her – hard.
The Ōtaki woman who as an event organiser had put together a fundraiser here for victims of the Australia bushfires in late 2019, caught Covid-19 after moving to Queensland with her daughter last year. The agony of the illness came as a shock, and a powerful reality check.
“In 2020, I didn’t know nor had I heard of anyone who had contracted this ‘deadly’ virus,” Anamia told Ōtaki Today from her Brisbane home. “I still followed the Government’s rules, but I was rolling my eyes the whole time. In my view, the virus didn’t exist. As far as I was concerned, it was a myth.”
Anamia hated the 2020 lockdown and the rules that went with it.
Her anger was amplified when her daughters’ father died during lockdown. They sneaked out of the region to see him before he was buried.
“We felt like prisoners escaping,” she says. “The rules didn’t accommodate for our cultural practices as Māori, let alone the feelings of our daughters. There was no compromise.”
As the weeks under lockdown progressed, the future for businesses and families without work became uncertain. Then in 2021 the trans-Tasman bubble opened up. Anamia and her youngest daughter moved to Queensland in May.
She was surprised at how few safety precautions were in place.
“We didn’t have to wear masks, we didn’t have to check in to most places and even though we had to social distance, it wasn’t a biggie. As much as I resented having to adjust to the new norm back home, here in Queensland, it was a real eye opener.”
Three weeks later, most of Queensland went into lockdown.
“It was called a lockdown, but you still had lots of freedom compared to back home.”
And slowly she noticed her attitude to the virus was changing.
“It was eerie here and I felt the difference compared to back home in Ōtaki. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve been in the brunt of it in both countries and how pandemic procedures apply, you’ll understand.”
In November 2021 she got her first vaccine, only because it would allow her to go home to see her other daughters. She got her second on December 5.
Last month, the Queensland borders opened to the rest of Australia. Within days, the Covid infection rate went from zero to more than 10,000 new cases a day.
A double vaccination was required to enter public facilities, retailers and cafés.
Anamia’s workplace left vaccination decisions to employees and wearing a mask wasn’t compulsory. But people started getting sick.
“Those who were sick quickly isolated and the rest of us continued our everyday work life. This is the moment I realised the virus is real. It isn’t a myth and my work colleagues are dropping like flies.”
Then, at the end of January, she started to feel unwell. She thought it was a mild head cold she would soon shake off. She masked up and went about her day. The next day it got worse.
“The vomiting started, the sneezing was more intense and I couldn’t shake the coughing,” Anamia says. “I still went to work thinking, if I stay away from people and just mask up, I’d be fine and my workmates would be fine.
“That wasn’t the case. Six hours into my day, I had a bin full of used tissues, a near empty bottle of sanitiser, a chest full of Vaporub and a headache to boot. Although I was in denial, I knew I had Covid.”
She left work to get tested, and she admits she was very scared. The test immediately showed a positive result.
“I was gutted. Gutted because I could have infected others through being so stubborn, gutted because I now had to take time off work from a job I’d just signed a contract for, gutted because I’d spent the few days prior with others that I might have infected, and gutted because the very thing I thought didn’t exist did!”
Throughout that night, the fevers and chest pain started, and the vomiting became more frequent. By morning, she felt she couldn’t move.
“My head was throbbing, my throat was swollen, I had no voice, my chest and rib area were burning. The normal head-cold symptoms were still there and I felt like I had pleurisy again, but right throughout my body I felt like a running tap of sweat. I could hardly breathe and used my vocal training to regulate what little breaths I could take.
“I was sneezing and coughing up blood and mucus, my eyesight was poor and I couldn’t sleep, I was in pain and I couldn’t do anything about it.
“I tried to get up but everything started spinning, so I just laid there, doing nothing.”
There was no point calling an ambulance because it was Covid and she felt unless she was near death, she had to let it run its course. She couldn’t call anyone to bring her vitamins, pain-killers or throat lozenges because she was in quarantine and nobody was allowed near her or her household.
At print time Anamia was still isolating in the household with her daughter Te Rangiapia.
“She was at my side to help me to the bathroom and trying to get me to drink plenty of fluids because I couldn’t eat.
“The worst of the illness lasted for two days and I knew the virus still hadn’t kicked in properly. Even though I was starting to physically feel defeated, I had to try to mentally prepare myself for more to come.”
And then it stopped.
“It never got worse. The severity of this virus had passed without me realising and I swear, I actually felt the vaccine at work. As weak as I was, I felt my body fighting back. Still very sick of course, but I knew I wasn’t going to get worse.”
A day later she was up and about, still lots of symptoms but nothing as severe as the previous couple of days. She started to bounce back.
Then her daughter tested positive for Covid and became unwell. Fortunately her symptoms were mild to start with, but after a few days she went down with a fever. Once her fever broke, she bounced back, too.
When Ōtaki Today spoke with her, they were seeing out their isolation period.
“We are in day 10 and although I still have a lingering cough (which can last a few months after getting over the virus), headaches and the odd dizzy spell, I can say I’m absolutely stoked I have been vaccinated,” Anamia says. “There have been worse cases than mine, including deaths, in my direct scope, but it still isn’t something I would wish on anyone.”
As long as she wasn’t showing any symptoms of Covid, she was hoping to return to work soon.
She says she believes it’s still the individual’s decision whether to be vaccinated.
“However, I urge you, whānau and friends, take heed. Please be prepared as much as you possibly can. Don’t be too complacent.
“Once the borders open completely,
it’s highly likely you or someone close to you will be affected. It creeps up on you silently and unless you make every effort to be properly prepared and educated by those who have had these experiences, you might suffer the same way I did or worse.
“I’m just lucky it was me who had this experience and not those more vulnerable like my mum, moko or kaumātua. I would hate for them to go through this.
“I now eat my words – the virus is real, it does exist, it isn’t a myth and no amount of shouting from the rooftops will change that fact.
“Kia kaha whānau, you can do this!”
– Anamia King: Ko Tainui te waka, ko Tararua te maunga, ko Ōtaki te awa, ko Te Pou o Tainui te marae, ko Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti te hapū, ko Ngāti Raukawa te iwi.