Maʻi Kolona; COVID-19 is Real


By Kuuleilani Reyes

Photo: Kuuleilani Reyes with her daughters
Kuuleilani Reyes with her daughters Keola‘oli and Kaliloa. Reyes recently recovered from a nasty bout of COVID-19. – Photo: Courtesy

Aloha mai kākou. ʻO wau ʻo Kuuleilani Reyes. Noho wau i Kualoa me kuʻu ʻohana. ʻO Keolaʻoli lāua ʻo Kaliloa kuʻu keiki kamahaʻo. He Hawaiʻi au.

I want to share my experience with the lāhui, because there are lots of stories, rumors, fear and skepticism surrounding COVID-19. Hopefully, you will have a better understanding about this vile disease by reading my moʻolelo.

I contracted the illness over the first weekend of August, while having meals with close friends I consider ʻohana. I didn’t feel the effects till a few days later when I woke up with a headache. I took two aspirin, thinking nothing of it, and went to work. After a few hours, I started coughing and felt hot. I knew in my naʻau something was wrong, so I left work to see a physician. On the way I learned one of the friends I was with over the weekend was very sick and went to the ER for fever and difficulty in breathing. I panicked and got tested.

I called my colleagues to let them know what was going on and to apologize profusely. It was a tremendous kuleana to inform my colleagues, whom I love, that I might have infected them. It still weighs heavily on my soul that I could have infected others.

A few days later I got my test results: positive. I was very scared of dying. What would happen to my keiki? I cried when I called my colleagues and loved ones. I felt awful. I encouraged them to get tested.

My symptoms were “mild,” so I didn’t go to the hospital. However, it was an awful, wretched experience; COVID-19 is terrible. I was a zombie for two weeks. Most of the time I was weak, ferociously thirsty, nauseous, hot and uncomfortable. I lost my taste buds and appetite. I stopped eating to avoid throwing up. I had very few lucid moments.

My daughters also tested positive, but fortunately they were asymptomatic. They handled all the housework and nursed me while I was in agony. They made me eat and drink water. It was a horrific experience.

I have now returned to the land of the living. God is good. I’m still feeling the stigma of having had it; but I understand that anyone can catch the disease. That’s why we must mask up, wash hands, and practice social distancing.

COVID-19 is real. It’s worse than the flu, and it’s highly contagious. Stay safe and keep your ʻohana near. Mālama pono a Ke Akua pū.

Kuuleilani Reyes lives in Kualoa, Oʻahu, with her daughters, Keolaʻoli and Kaliloa who attend Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau. She is a librarian, a mother and a Native Hawaiian.

The views and opinions expressed in Haʻi Manaʻo are those of the author, and do not represent the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Guidelines for the submission of Haʻi Manaʻo are available at