A brave Melbourne teen who almost died with coronavirus has shared her harrowing ordeal and desperate fight for life as one of Australia’s youngest cases in ICU on a ventilator.
Saela, 17, and her whole family contracted Covid-19 from her baby sister’s daycare in late August as Victoria’s latest outbreak worsened.
With more concern about her elderly grandparents, it was Saela who ended up in hospital for almost a month, including nine days in a coma.
The Year 11 student was not eligible for the vaccine at the time.
Saela delivered a powerful address about the grave fears for her life as her condition deteriorated. along with an impassioned plea to Covid deniers and those hesitant to roll up their sleeves.
‘There are a lot of people my age who think they’re invincible and don’t need the vaccine,’ she said.
‘They think they are young, they don’t have underlying conditions. They won’t be affected but Covid almost killed me.
Saela stole the show at the Victoria government’s daily Covid briefing, where she was joined by her mum Michelle, who relived going through every parent’s worst nightmare.
She hailed Saela for her bravery in speaking out just weeks after being told by doctors her daughter was the sickest patient in the Eastern Health district.
‘We’re not actors. This is not a script, this is on paper so I can look at it because this is so nerve-racking,’ Michelle said.
‘She wanted to share her story. She wasn’t forced.
‘Maybe anonymous people online will try and make her feel bad for speaking out but they should know nothing will make her feel worse than Covid did.’
Melbourne teen Saela (pictured left with her mother Michelle) left journalists and viewers in tears at Wednesday’s daily Covid briefing as she shared her harrowing ordeal
Michelle says anti-vaxxers are entitled to their opinion.
‘It’s not me to force them to do it,’ she said.
‘I’m just here to tell my story and this is what happened to me.
‘And I just hope that that person doesn’t experience what we did. It’s up to them.
The pair have since been inundated with an outpouring of support online from health officials, the media and general public.
‘So impressed with Saela and Michelle’s eloquence and generosity in sharing what must have been a very harrowing experience,’ one woman wrote.
Another added: ‘Any parent listening to Michelle’s devastating helpless experience watching family members disappear alone in ambulances or hearing Saela had to be put on a ventilator over the phone will be moved.’
Saela recalled the day she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance as she struggled to breathe as her coughing fits worsened.
Her condition became critical as her lungs filled with fluid.
‘I was so scared, I was screaming and I thought I was going to die and then I felt nothing, they had put me to sleep. They woke me up nine days later,’ Saela recalled.
She woke up with a tube in her neck, unable to move or talk.
‘I was scared to sleep again,’ she said.
‘I just stared at the ceiling and I was alone. There was so much machines around me, so many wires and needles, so much beeping and everything made me scared.’
Doctors told Saela’s family she was the sickest patient at Box Hill Hospital (pictured)
Saela had to learn how to walk again before heading home in time to watch the AFL grand final on television.
Three weeks on, she’s still not 100 per cent and has just resumed online classes this week.
She still has physical and emotional reminders of her life-threatening battle.
‘I’ll have this scar from the tracheotomy on my neck for the rest of my life,’ she said.
Saela and her family are from the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, one the worst hotspots of the latest outbreak that plunged the city into its sixth lockdown.
Eight members of the family ended up with Covid including her siblings, both parents and two grandparents.
Michelle (pictured) will never forget the harrowing phone call she got from doctors informing her daughter Saela was being placed on a ventilator
‘When I got the call from the doctor to say that Saela’s health had deteriorated so rapidly and was getting transferred to ICU and put on a ventilator I was in shock. I thought how? Literally I just talked to her two hours ago,’ her mother Michelle said.
‘I remember speaking to the doctor and I said, ‘Please. You need to save my baby.’ And he said, ‘Michelle, I promise you we are doing everything that we can.’ He said, ‘At this moment, she is the sickest person in this hospital.’
Saela and her mum issued emotional pleas for everyone to get vaccinated as Victoria recorded 1,571 cases and 13 deaths, the deadliest day of the state’s Delta outbreak.
‘There’s still COVID in our community,’ Saela said.
‘There are still so many families right now being affected and it makes me so sad. I’m blessed I’m home now with my family. I just want things back to the way it was and when we have that chance, please don’t wait’
Michelle said they may never know why Saela ended up so sick.
‘But I do believe she wouldn’t have been this sick if she’d been vaccinated in time,’ Michelle said.
‘Please. No family should have to go through what we did. No parent should see their child suffer and almost die.
‘Don’t leave it until it’s too late.’
Saela and her family live in Broadmeadows, one of the worst hits areas of Melbourne’s latest Covid outbreak (pictured staff at a drive-through testing clinic)