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Being a certified nursing assistant (CNA) over the past year has been filled with so many emotions, decisions, and sacrifices. For those who love caring for older adults who are sick and frail in our nation, COVID-19 has caused so much upheaval in the healthcare world in so many ways.

Hospitalized with COVID

I have been a CNA for 34 years this past April, and I have worked through many challenges in my career. The COVID pandemic has, by far, been the hardest challenge of all. That said, never once did I second guess my career choice or consider leaving it behind because of COVID. Walking away from my profession never entered my mind even when the pandemic was at its worst.

A Hard “No” to the Vaccine

The one thing I did struggle with, and knew I would not do, was take the coronavirus vaccine. How could I trust a vaccine when, for months, we as a nation knew nothing about the virus, how it was spread, how to protect ourselves and others against it, and what the virus itself would do to our bodies? And, most importantly, how would I trust something that is supposed to prevent it from spreading when it didn’t seem like anyone knew how to treat people who had it?

All this information was changing daily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So why would I risk a vaccine that had been created to fight a virus that no one knows anything about? How could that be safe? What short-term, long-term effects would this vaccine create? I had many questions. My mind was made up. In fact, I was prepared to walk away from my career if my employer was going to mandate that I take it.

The Day COVID Hit Me

I will never forget Dec. 8, 2020. It started out as a normal day. I went to work, did my check-in, my temp was good. As usual, I had no signs or symptoms of COVID. Personally, I felt great. I had one of two weekly COVID tests that morning. As I was preparing to go the floor to suit up in PPE, the nurse told me that everything looked good. She said she would find me on the floor if the test came back positive.

I didn’t make it to the floor that day. Seconds before I was about to step out, I was rushed into the closet door as I had a positive result on the rapid test. I said, “no way, I feel fine! I have no symptoms, no fever.” But I was sent home to await a more thorough test from the lab.

First day back at work after COVID
My first day back at work after weeks of symptoms.

In Denial

In my mind, I was thinking I would get a call to come back in a couple of days, when the lab test came back as a false positive. Little did I know what was about to happen. I went home and prepared supper and did some laundry and other household chores.

At around 5:00 p.m. I started feeling bad. I began to feel hot, weak, and sick to my stomach, so I lay down. As the hours passed, I pivoted into a horrible spiral of sickness, with a fever of 104. I couldn’t eat or drink. I had no strength to even move myself.

A Hard “No” to the Vent

As time went by, I got sicker and sicker. I struggled to breath, I was begging for cold air and laying down propped up because I couldn’t get any air into my lungs. My children had to help me to the bathroom. They had to help me pull my clothes down and sit down. Then they had to help me get dressed.

After 10 days, I was no better. In fact, I was likely worse than I was on the first day. I decided it was time to visit the hospital. I ended up with two hospital stays for COVID lung, pancreatitis, and a blood clot in my lower left lung. My O2 was 79 to 80 percent, and at one point, the discussion of a vent came up. I refused. I knew that people who were being placed on the vent weren’t coming off of them alive!!

I told my children that I if I was going to die, it was not going to happen while I was hooked up to a vent. As the days passed and many doctor visits, tests, and medications had helped only to relieve my symptoms, I knew there was nothing that would cure me.

A Long Haul

After some 20 days of exhausting and excruciating symptoms, I finally started to feel a little better. I could sit up for short periods, but it would physically wipe me out for hours. One day, I was basically sitting propped up on my couch so I could breathe, when for the first time in almost a month I could focus on what was on the television.

They were talking about the COVID-19 vaccine. As I listened, I came to a realization that very instant. No one ever thinks they will get as sick as I did if theyCOVID Vaccine get COVID. I could have died, and at that moment, I said to myself: “Even if taking this vaccine kills me, at least I will die trying to live instead of letting it kill me without a fight.”

Getting to YES

Eight months later, I am still fighting the physical damage to my body left behind by the virus. I know I could never withstand another battle with it. But now I know I have a fighting chance because I said YES to the vaccine. We won’t know for many years what the long-term effects of either the virus or the vaccine are. But at least because of the vaccine we will live to face those effects instead of letting COVID kill us now!!

Please say YES and live to tell your story.

13 thoughts on “I Said “No” to the Vaccine. Then I Got COVID.”

    1. Thank you for your support, if my story can can make just one person make a proactive choice to vaccinate so they themselves do not go through the horrible sickness I did then it was worth it.

  1. I didn’t realize you had covid Sherry. I’m so sorry to hear that. I also had covid over a year ago, June 2020. I was sick with every symptom imaginable. I was sick for three weeks. I was still in nursing classes online and doing homework even when I couldn’t focus because of the constant pressure on my head. I would let my teacher know I couldn’t breathe well and to give me a minute offscreen. I still have problems with my taste and smell. Somethings are a rancid smell instead of what they are supposed to be. With that being said and everything I went through even though I thought several times that I may die, I will continue to say NO to the covid vaccine. I feel it could be worse for me than covid is.

  2. What an amazing real life true story! I hope everyone will share this blog through their networks in hopes to prevent the deadly spread.

    1. Thank you for supporting me and my story, and I am thankful to the NAHCA staff for encouraging me to tell my story, this Association is truly the only ones that have CNAs backs!!!

  3. You coming out to share your story is truly amazing. I’m sure part of you felt vulnerable to attack, as some are still completely against getting the vaccine. You went through a lot, almost died, and your story, no doubt will be the reason why some decide to get the vaccine…. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your support and yes it does put you in a vulnerable spot, hopefully people will respect my decision to hopefully help people make a proactive decision to vaccinate before they have to go through it themselves and to help protect everyone around them.

  4. Grateful for your sharing! If this influences even one person to get the vaccine, that could be one life you’ve saved.

    1. Thank you for your support and I agree any life saved is a win, hopefully it will help persuade many to make a proactive decision to vaccinate before they get the virus and potentially get as sick as I was.

  5. As I read your reply, I note that you express concern for Sheri and for yourself as you report your symptoms which prevented you from continuing your online nursing courses. No where in your response, do I hear concern for the patients whom you will someday take care of. As a nurse and a family member of a person in a long term care facility, let me applaud Joe Biden decision requiring health care workers to be vaccinated, in order for a facility to continue to receive CMS Medicaid and Medicare funding.
    Nursing is a caring profession and yet, so many fail to understand that un-vaccinated HCW’s place their at -risk patients in extreme jeopardy. Sherry went from “feeling fine” to very sick in a matter of hours. How many fragile and at- risk patients do you think would have survived what she went through?
    So, as you continue to say NO to the Covid vaccine, thank God the decision is no longer in your hands. My prayers to all of the LTC residents and acute care patients who died, because their nurses, physicians and allied hcw’s said NO to the Covid 19 vaccine.

  6. My previous reply was to Sami Lemons- Fowler post. Thank you Sherry and other health care workers who realize saying YES to the Covid 19 vaccine, is not only about them but to the patients, residents and health care workers everywhere.

  7. I am so sorry to hear that you contracted Covid, Sherry and I am glad to hear your recovery story. I hope that so many others will decide to voluntarily choose to take the vaccine by reading your story.
    Being in senior health care, both my husband and I took the vaccine as soon as we could get it, siting exactly as you stated, ‘We won’t know for many years what the long-term effects of either the virus or the vaccine are. But at least because of the vaccine we will live to face those effects instead of letting COVID kill us now!!’
    We chose to protect our seniors, protect our parents, protect our colleagues, others and ourselves NOW rather than worry about dying from either Covid now or the side effects from the vaccine later. It has been well worth the choice to put ours and others’ health first before our own fears. Our ancestors did it with other vaccines so certainly we can do it too.
    Bless you and your work. Your career is one of the most important and most intimate in long term care. Thank you!

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