NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — With COVID-19 cases still rising among young people, there’s a sobering story from Long Island.

A teenager who says she was on “death’s door” returned to the hospital that saved her life to warn others the pandemic is not over yet, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.

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Karla Duarte showed gratitude outside Cohen Children’s Hospital after making a full recovery from COVID, which was a long shot.

A year ago, the Queens high school student was among the sickest. Her lungs were failing and she was on a ventilator.

“I was a young person. I had no health conditions prior to me being sick with COVID, so I was in shock, honestly,” Duarte said. “I almost died because of COVID. It was heartbreaking words to hear because I was just 16.”


Doctors tried a last resort – never used before on a child with the coronavirus: an ECMO machine, which filters the body’s blood of carbon dioxide and adds oxygen.

It came with a high risk of life-threatening complications.

“They told me this is a 50/50 chance,” said Ana Tejade, Karla’s mother. “I risked it. I said, you know, do whatever you have to do in order to save her.”

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“Her body was relying on an artificial lung, essentially, for, I think is it was close to 10 days… without it she wouldn’t have survived,” said Dr. James Schneider.

“It’s now become much more common for COVID that’s not responsive to the first-line therapies like ventilators and medications,” said Dr. Todd Sweberg.

It worked. On April 19, 2020, Karla recovered from COVID respiratory failure. Her story is a testament to the fact that young people are at risk.


“One of the things we have to do is dispel the myth that kids are immune from this illness. We do see a lot of very sick children, we currently have sick children with COVID in the ICU,” said Dr. Schneider.

Karla is now fully vaccinated and looks forward to a career in respiratory health.

“There will never be enough words or actions that I can thank the entire staff here,” she said. “So many have pitched into this miracle.”

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Cohen Children’s Hospital is part of a national study on severe COVID cases in children. It’s trying to crack the mystery as to why some children, like Karla, fall so critically ill.

Carolyn Gusoff