Dallas 20-year-old who recovered from coronavirus: ‘I’m lucky I survived’

A Florida college student who spent seven days in ICU after testing positive for COVID-19 is finally home in Dallas.

It’s been a long ordeal for Shira Karp of Dallas who spent nearly six weeks in isolation. She admits she was like a lot of other people about a month ago who didn’t think COVID-19 would affect her. Now, she says she’s an example of what can happen to an otherwise healthy young person.

Shira was on a 10-day study abroad trip to Ireland in early March. On the plane ride home, she started feeling sick. But like many, the otherwise healthy college junior dismissed it.

“We were all joking about it,” she said. “We were like, ‘What if it is.’ But all I had was a sore throat, so I was like there’s no way this is coronavirus at all.”

Then, it hit her.

“At 5 a.m., I woke up and it literally felt like my chest was compacting,” Shira said. “I was like I need to get somewhere. I cannot breathe.”

Shira went to an urgent care, but she was quickly referred to the hospital. A day later, she moved to ICU. Her heart rate was elevated and she had a severe case of pneumonia filling her lungs with fluid and signs of sepsis. Her parents flew to Florida, but they could only visit through glass.

“It’s really very rare as a parent you have that feeling that you can’t just hold their hand,” said Jon Karp, Shira’s father. “And even if you know it’s going to hurt, you can usually just say hey it’s going to be ok, and we couldn’t do that.”

The 20-year-old tried to stay upbeat, entertaining herself and followers on social media. But Shira says the gravity of it all hit home when she saw a news story about a man in her same position, but with a much different outcome.

“His lung X-rays looked identical to mine. The entire left lung was filled with fluid,” she said. “Except, that guy died, and I survived. And I realized how lucky I was. Nobody knows how the coronavirus will affect you.”

For now, Shira will social distance at home as friends and family welcome her back. She’s sharing her story in hopes of reaching those who may still think like she did.

“People aren’t going to take it seriously until someone they know gets it,” she said.

Shira was in isolation so long because she needed two consecutive negative tests to be released from quarantine. Her first was negative, but her second and third tests were positive even though she was asymptomatic. The CDC got involved and made the call to release her.

Now, Shira is going to be seeing more doctors to try and figure out what’s still left in her body. When the time comes, she’s hoping to give plasma to help others fighting coronavirus.