Joe Gammon could barely speak while he was on his ICU bed at the Ascension Saint Thomas West. A suction tube is needed for him to clear his throat. He is even struggling to dislodge some phlegm.
“If I would have known six months ago that this could be possible, this would have been a no-brainer. But I honestly didn’t think I was at any risk. That is the naive portion on my end.” 45-year-old Gammon, who is a father of six shares his regrets after going through a critical phase.
Gammon, who is from Lascassas, works as a truck driver and listens to many conservative discussions over the radio. Debates and tirades encouraging personal freedom and downplaying the pandemic pushed him away from getting vaccinated.
Hospitals in Tennessee face new increasing records every day, seeing more COVID patients with the unvaccinated ones needing more critical care filling the ICUs with regret from patients hoping for another chance.
Gammon doesn’t consider himself as an “anti-vaxxer.” He firmly believes in the COVID vaccine now. He is grateful that he didn’t cause another person to be severely sick in the ICU like him.
“Before you say no, seek a second opinion,” Gammon says to people sharing the same views with him before he got sick. “Just to say ‘no’ is irresponsible. Because it might not necessarily affect you. What if it affected your spouse? Or your child? You wouldn’t want that. And you sure wouldn’t want that in your heart.”
Gammon continues to fight for his life. COVID has caused so much damage to his lungs for a ventilator. Thick tubes are used on his neck to pump blood through an ECMO machine for oxygenation. He also has to wear a mask to force air into his nose and lungs while waiting for them to heal.
According to an ICU nurse, Angie Gicewicz, only COVID patients are being treated in Saint Thomas West ICU, and that data point should be pretty convincing to vaccine holdouts.
She added, “we don’t have people in the hospital suffering horrible reactions to the vaccine.”
Gicewicz says, if only all critical patients could express their thoughts, they’ll convince people to not make the same mistake as they did. Recently, an elderly woman was admitted, she shares and had to be isolated to control the infection.
They would see her from her sealed room, waving to the nurses, yearning for a conversation with anyone.
“The first day I took care of her, she said, ‘I guess I should have taken that vaccine.’ I said, ‘Well, yeah honey, probably, but we’re here where we are now. And let’s do what we can for you.’ ”
Unfortunately, the elderly woman, who was unvaccinated, didn’t make it, like many others, says Gicewicz. She died in the hospital, which had more than one mortalities daily in August due to COVID.
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