For Karla Duarte, it’s the little things that mean a lot these days. Things like taking her dog Canelo for a walk.

"I heard that even when I was in the hospital, he was really sad, he wouldn’t even bark. But when I got home all he wanted to do was spend time with me,” said Duarte.

Karla's story is one of survival. She was a perfectly healthy 16 year old when she contracted COVID-19 last March. 

What You Need To Know

  • Karla Duarte was a perfectly healthy 16 year old when she contracted COVID-19 last March.  Her condition would rapidly deteriorate to the point where she could hardly breathe

  • After being admitted to Cohens Children's Hospital in Queens, Karla was put on a ventilator and eventually a form of life-support called ECMO. It left her unconscious for 10 days

  • Karla kept fighting and eventually regained enough strength to breathe on her own. After 21 days in the hospital, she was discharged on April 19th
  • Today Karla says she is back to 100% and doctors say her heart and lungs are normal

She thought she’d be home from school for a few days, but that all changed when her fever and chills became unbearable.

She ended up in the intensive care unit at Cohens Childrens Hospital in Queens unable to breathe.

After trying various therapies, doctors made the difficult decision to put her on a ventilator and eventually a form of life support called ECMO, a machine that supplements heart and lung function.

"My family thought that I probably wasn’t going to make it,” she said. 

Dr. James Schneider of Cohens Children’s Hospital in Queens treated Karla. 

"She went through a lot. She was one of the sickest kids we cared for,” said Dr. Schneider.

Children infected with the coronavirus are less likely than adults to develop severe illness.

Dr. Schneider says it's still a mystery why Karla became so sick.  But Cohens Children's Hospital is now part of a study to determine what could make certain children vulnerable.

"Are there genetic reasons, are there immune reasons, we're trying to figure that out right now as a scientific community so hopefully we'll be able to answer that,” he said.

According to the New York State Department of Health, of the more than 39,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state, only 24 have been under the age of 20. 

Three weeks after being admitted, Karla left the hospital to the cheers of the dozens of staff members who helped keep her alive.

She spent several weeks regaining her strength at home and is now back to feeling 100% with no lingering effects from her medical ordeal.

She plans to make the most of her life going forward. That includes plenty of walks with Canelo, and going to college next year to become a physical or respiratory therapist.

"I wanted to be a cop or somewhere in the criminal justice field, but I was inspired after my situation to be able to help others the same way I was helped during my tough moments.”

Tough moments overcome by a tough young girl.