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A week that changed one woman’s mind about the COVID-19 vaccine

“I would rather get COVID than get the Vaccine.”

One week later I changed my mind.

My mother, my daughter, and I were driving back from Wyoming last August after two weeks of vacation fun. The highlight of the trip was a huge country and western concert featuring Blake Shelton. We shared the event with tens of thousands of his loyal fans, and even though COVID was still on the rampage, we weren’t worried – the concert was outdoors.

It was during that trip that I was asked if I was vaccinated against COVID and answered with the statement I soon regretted. It’s just that I was more scared of the Vaccine than I was of COVID. At the time I didn’t know enough about either.

Soon into our return trip my daughter developed symptoms — fatigue, fever, nausea. Three days later it hit me.

At first, we thought we both had food poisoning. By the third day of my illness, my husband insisted I test and, although testing positive, the symptoms weren’t bad, just some stomach issues, chills, fever, a cough. But on day five things really ramped up.

I had lots of pain all over, especially in my lungs. The fever got worse and I know this sounds strange, but I had psychological symptoms. I couldn’t swallow or drink. I would put water in my mouth but couldn’t swallow, like my throat was blocked, I became very thirsty and got dehydrated quickly. By day ten I was hospitalized.

During my five-day hospitalization I responded quickly to treatment and was able to eat and drink on my own. A health care provider told me I was experiencing PTSD labeled COVID Psychosis. And for good reason.

I came home on oxygen, extremely weak, fatigued and feeling incredible pain. I couldn’t stand on my own, and my husband whom I incidentally infected with COVID, literally had to take care of my most basic needs while sick with the virus himself. Fortunately for both of us his symptoms, though similar to mine initially, were not severe.

During my recovery I had a lot of nerve pain, especially in my legs. I was so weak when I got home from the hospital, I couldn’t coordinate my legs for weeks. Using stairs was beyond my ability. My doctor advised me not to sleep all day long, and it took all my husband and I could do to achieve that even marginally. I had no bladder control, lost hair by the handfuls, and experienced cognitive and memory changes.

Now, almost one year later, COVID still has its grip on me and its impact may be with me for life.

It took six months before I could even begin to feel “normal.” Going out in public was initially terrifying, but I gradually became less nervous. I often “lose words” in everyday conversation, and the writing that used to come easily to me does not. Because my lung capacity is restricted, the long weekend hikes with the family remain on hold; I am just not physically up to it. To say getting COVID was a game changer is putting it mildly.

Before all this happened, I never got sick. I am a younger adult, and according to the statistics I should have been fine. I believed I was not at risk because of my age and because I didn’t have any underlying conditions. It seemed those people I knew who resisted getting the Vax already had COVID and were fine. It just didn’t seem to be a threat.

But the effects of COVID went beyond me. My young daughter was scared, and as the infection lingered, was disappointed that her mom missed several events that were important to us.

How my husband was able to take care of me and our daughter and his own infection is truly amazing — I could not have gotten through without his tireless support.

Yet, in spite of my horrific experience with COVID and the continuing challenges I face on a daily basis, I have friends and family who are still hesitant to get the vaccine. I want them to understand how close I felt to not making it, that being a Vax nonbeliever doesn’t prevent the virus from infecting you. Just because you had COVID doesn’t mean you won’t get it again. And again. And the immunity that comes from having COVID is short-lived.

It almost cost me my life, but it may have helped me save others, as several members of my immediate and extended family have taken the shot, and yes, myself included.

During my first post COVID grocery store stop, an irate woman saw my mask and snapped “You are the Problem!”

I prefer to think of myself as the solution.

Lora Powell as told to Chris Smith of Muncy who was a prevention education/highway safety specialist for over 35 years and is a member of Let’s End COVID!, a group of people in Northcentral PA working to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic through education, outreach and mitigation.

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