This article is part of a series called “COVID Survivor Stories,” where we profile the struggles of those who survived a diagnosis of COVID-19, as they deal with the repercussions of recovery.
Marathon runner and stay-at-home mom Camille Hlavka did everything she could to fight COVID-19, but the virus was one hurdle she had a hard time running past.
Hlavka suffers from long hauler COVID symptoms since she recovered in January, namely shortness of breath. To this day, she has struggled to be able to breathe properly.
“I’m constantly short of breath,” she said. “Your brain learns how to compensate for loss when something happens. What my body has learned to do is take these short, deep breaths into my chest.”
She has also started running again, which is something she at one point during her recovery from COVID thought was never going to happen again.
‘Is it hard? Absolutely,” she said. “Is it way harder than it used to be? One hundred percent, but I refuse to give up. I refuse to let this [disease] win.”
Hlavka, 38, started to notice something was wrong in late December of last year, while she was playing with her 2-year-old son Reid. She described that time as feeling like she was drowning.
The Queens, NY resident had gotten tested and took a virtual visit with a doctor who urged her to go to the emergency room.
“When you have COVID and a doctor tells you that you need to get to an emergency room, I was really afraid that I would never see my family again,” she said, “but I’m not above science. I’m human.”
She walked to the hospital since it was only over a half of a mile away. Once she got there, Hlavka got a CAT scan that showed she had pneumonia on top of COVID.
“I knew in that moment, yes, pneumonia on top of COVID is scary, but I was lucky,” she said. “I know that there’s medicine, for pneumonia. What a bizarre time in the world that when they say you have pneumonia, that you’re like ‘okay. I’m gonna be okay.'”
Doctors said that after six weeks, she could go out running again. As she started running, the feelings of drowning went away, but something was still off.
After seeing a number of specialists, she visited an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor who found that her right vocal cord is swollen in a way that her left vocal cord is not.
She started receiving vocal cord therapy, but after running in last year’s New York City Marathon, she struggles to run a mile.
“It’s certainly not for lack of determination or body strength, because I’m very strong,” she said.
In spite of her health struggles, Hlavka was a positive and happy person before, and remains so now.
“I am a very positive person, and [my story] has a positive outcome,” she said. “Because I’m sitting here I’m talking to you and I am a marathoner, and I am still running.”