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PUGH COLUMN: My experience with COVID-19, vaccine revelation

On Sept. 9, 2021, I woke up thinking after work; I would be celebrating my wife’s birthday with a relaxing evening and memorable dinner.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans. My body temperature clocked in at 100.6, and I decided to head to Piedmont Urgent Care to get tested for COVID-19.

As you can probably guess, that test came back positive. No problem, I thought. My wife and I gathered all the over-the-counter medications recommended, and I began my road to recovery.

My symptoms began with simple fever and chills, but one or more additional symptoms would pop up for the first four days.

On Sept. 13, my wife put me in the car to take a trip to the emergency department at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center, mostly to get a quick order for a monoclonal antibody infusion order — which we did.

That Wednesday, I went in for the infusion and the next day, things turned worse — not because of the infusion, but because double pneumonia had already settled in worse than the initial chest x-rays showed. My oxygen level would not move above 84%, so, back to the emergency room, I went. This time, I would be admitted.

While talking to the doctor in the ER, he was reassuring me that they were very well equipped to handle my needs and get me back on my feet, all the while cautioning me that this was a very dire situation that I needed to take seriously and remain positive.

That’s easier said than done when faced with being placed in a hospital room alone, no visitors allowed. Sure, my phone was handy, but the fatigue I felt made it difficult to care about picking it up and even texting. My only thoughts for the first 12 hours were my wife and family and how they were coping. Admittedly, my thoughts turned many times to whether I would see them again. I realize that what I have endured is far less than what many have and are currently fighting, but at the moment, it felt like the end was near.

After three days, I was released from the hospital to go home with oxygen, which I am currently wearing while writing this.

I am not entirely out of the woods but making great strides to getting back to full strength.

This experience has been humbling — specifically for someone who had been given a clean bill of health as late as May of this year.

As I was being escorted through Wellstar to the exit, I glanced up to see the executive team on the wall and the first face I saw was Coleman Foss, president of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center. I thought then that he deserves to hear just how amazing his team is — not that he needs me to validate that, I am sure he is well aware of how great they are — but having been in the service industry for many years, I realize they may not hear it as much as they should. So, Mr. Foss, your team at WellStar is incredible. From the front desk at the ER to housekeeping, no one missed a moment to wish me well and hope I felt better soon.

Thank you to my care team for making me feel comfortable and at ease during such an uncertain time. From Amy, who kept my wife updated while I was settling into room 433, my RN’s, Brittney, Emily C. and Nsoli, who checked in on me frequently throughout their shifts, to the med techs who checked vitals every three hours or so. Without your strict attention to detail, my stay would have been more stressful than it already was.

Of course, my attending provider, Dr. Walter J. Selver. Dr. Selver was straightforward yet reassuring and, more importantly, precise in the method of treatment and thorough in his final assessment before discharge.

These men and women deserve more praise than we can ever offer. They walk in the room after room of COVID patients thinking about how they will make each patient feel comfortable.  I’m sure they think about themselves to an extent, but you would never know it. They are certainly heroes and I thank you.

To my parents, who made a 10.5-hour drive from Virginia Beach, thank you! And of course, my wife, Brandi, you are a rock and my hero. Without your encouragement throughout this, I am unsure where I would be today — thank you, and I love you!

Now, I will say that I am not vaccinated. My reasoning, albeit personal, I am not afraid to share. I simply was unsure of the vaccine’s efficacy and how often we would need to get a shot of some sort and we still do not. What I will say is this ordeal has made me less worried about how often and more about avoidance. Dr. Selver told me on my way out of Wellstar that my natural immunity was in the neighborhood of three months. The vaccine has to be longer than that, right? I think I will take my chances, and when I am cleared, I will become vaccinated.

I now believe everyone should get vaccinated and not because someone told us we have to, but because this virus is so unpredictable, it hits everyone differently. As the numbers prove, fewer vaccinated people are being hospitalized and even dying.

As a point of reference, during my stay, I was one of 51 hospitalized and 47 of us were unvaccinated. If that doesn’t tell you something, I am unsure what will, and we can agree to disagree.

To be clear, I am not an advocate of vaccine mandates, but I think that we should trust our medical community, which has been tirelessly begging us to become vaccinated so that we can get this virus eradicated once and for all. After all, we trust them enough when they prescribe medications to treat various ailments without question — why should this be any different?