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How Getting COVID-19 Sorted Out My Views on Vaccination

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Katie and her family together after she recovered from COVID-19

Written by Katie Moeller, Manager of Strategic Projects for UnityPoint Health

Before I got COVID-19, I truly understood both sides of the vaccination argument and believed it to be a very personal choice I had no right to weigh-in on. For me, the right decision meant getting vaccinated and following the recommended guidelines.

Then, I got sick, and things changed. I realized my illness was due to someone else’s decision to not get vaccinated. People are allowing the virus to keep spreading, taking away the relief and freedom we all briefly enjoyed, together. What someone else decided to not do, took a serious toll on my life.

Now is my time to speak out.

It All Started as a Regular Day, Then it Hit.

It felt like a normal Wednesday. I woke to my alarm at 4:45 a.m., drank my coffee and thought about the workday ahead. That week, I was helping with a Joint Commission survey. Every four years or so, outside inspectors come to our hospitals to speak with staff and review how we’re providing care. It’s a very important survey that takes a lot of preparation.

These surveys are mentally and physically exhausting. This one, in particular, was even more so with our hospitals in the midst of a COVID-19 surge once again. As we went from unit to unit, you could see the exhaustion on my colleagues’ faces as they worked tirelessly caring for our patients, working extra shifts due to the national health care worker shortage while still trying to find a work/life balance as our hospital beds fill up. I couldn’t help but think about how they’re doing their part in this pandemic, yet so many others are refusing do theirs.

At the end of the day, I sat in a meeting discussing the survey and realized I was beginning to feel ill with a headache and some dizziness. I went home and got in bed early, chalking it up to a long day.

In the middle of the night, I woke up feverish with all the COVID-19 symptoms. I had a gut feeling that’s what it was and confirmed it with a test the next morning. Despite being fully vaccinated since January, I was positive for COVID-19. My best, most likely, assumption is that given the high transmission rates in my community—and low vaccination rates—I had likely contracted the virus through a momentary interaction with a stranger.

nullFollowing the CDC’s recommendations, that day marked the beginning of a long, 10 days isolated to my bedroom in hopes of keeping my fiancé, and our blended family of four children, healthy. The first three days were a blur. I was feverish and slept a lot, waking only to my fiancé’s knock letting me know he had left food and drink outside. Once my fever broke, my symptoms began to improve, and the emotional roller coaster began.

Goodbye Wedding Planning, Hello Netflix

I experienced guilt thinking about the places I went and people I saw while contagious before becoming symptomatic. Although I consistently wore a mask at work, I still exposed some colleagues I care very deeply about (thank you, coffee and lunch breaks), some of which are immunocompromised. Since my symptoms started slowly, I also unintentionally exposed family members and friends. It was a very humbling, and quite embarrassing, experience to call my loved ones and share that I had tested positive for COVID-19. Their reactions were shock (“but you’re vaccinated, Katie!”), fear (“my child has asthma!”), frustration (“but I am supposed to go out of town for a family vacation!”) but most of all, people wanted to know what they could do to help.

I also went through a period of immense sadness during isolation—resulting to FaceTime interactions with my children and fiancé during dinner.

I felt disappointment over all the preplanned wedding activities that had to be rescheduled due to my illness, which put a burden on our early October wedding date. There were so many events I was excited for: hair and makeup trials, wedding shoe shopping, dress fittings for my girls and myself, shopping for table decorations and meeting with dessert vendors to finalize a menu.

nullEventually, I felt the frustration of being stuck in my room, binging shows on Netflix and looking at my labradoodle’s fur under the crack of my bedroom door as he waited for me to finally be able to take him for a walk.

Now, most of all, it’s the resentment I continue to feel. The delta variant is spreading like wildfire, because not enough people are vaccinated. The longer this goes on, the smarter the virus becomes, and the sicker people get — both vaccinated and unvaccinated. It takes all of us to overcome this battle. We all need to do our part in getting vaccinated.

Yet despite getting sick, I wholeheartedly believe (and know studies confirm) my COVID-19 vaccination kept me out of the hospital, from being another burden on our overworked and understaffed clinical teams.

Now, I’m Sure of My Position on Vaccination

In fact, I’ve never been surer— the only way to combat this virus is for people to get vaccinated, if they can. It’s the only way to get a hold on this pandemic.

I think most of us have experienced a need to see a health care provider for some reason: sore throat, earache, broken arm, infected cut, allergies, etc. We put our trust in them to treat us and make us better. I ask you to please continue to put your trust in your health care provider when it comes to COVID-19 and getting your vaccine. Listen to their advice.

Do it for yourself, your child, your elderly parents, your neighbor or your dog that will never understand why you’re too sick to take him for a walk. Do it to keep the people who can’t get vaccinated, safe. Do it for humanity.

Please, please just do it.