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You get COVID, you get COVID

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Remember that Oprah episode where she gives out cars to her entire studio audience? “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!” etc.?

Well, this holiday season, my family had its own version, only it was, “You get COVID. You get COVID. You get COVID. You get COVID, and … you get COVID. Everybody gets COVID.”

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Yep, Omicron swept through the Rhodes camp over Christmas. The five of us spent the entirety of the break quarantining, as our aches turned to fevers, to nasty sore throats and hacking coughs, headaches, all-encompassing fatigue, and, for good measure, diarrhea.

The best news is we’re all recovering now, and nobody died. The second best news is the few folks we were exposed to while we were off-gassing virus somehow managed to avoid infection.

It was a Christmas miracle.

I write this on day 10 of isolation. Though we apparently won the COVID sweepstakes and picked up the new, improved extra-mild version in Omicron, it was still nasty, nasty stuff. This despite us all being vaccinated and myself and my ex being boosted.

Even with that protection the experience was not “like the flu.” It was like the gnarliest flu or cold I’ve ever had. The kids seemed to experience a kinder, gentler Omicron, thankfully. But for us parents and my 19-year-old, it was ugly.

I visited Kaiser Fontana’s emergency room on December 26 in a desperate late-night attempt to get myself and one of my kids tested: people were stacked up inside and a line of human misery snaked out the entrance into the parking lot. We didn’t attempt to join them, as it looked like a safer bet to wait and try again in the morning.

We eventually found testing appointments at Fairplex and at that same Kaiser facility. Finding rapid home tests wasn’t nearly as easy. We called drug stores all around Southern California on the 26th and 27th. Nothing. It wasn’t until the 28th that we found some right under our noses, at local Village treasure Hendricks Pharmacy.

By then we were all miserable, but didn’t know for certain if we had COVID. Those rapid tests confirmed it. It was a clean sweep: all five of us.

The first few days were terrible for the so-called adults, but the younger kids seemed to skate through it with relative ease. I’ve slept seven hours or less for decades. Soon my Omicron-slumber was going on for eight or nine hours, with the occasional nap during the day. The fatigue was heavy. So were the aches. The sore throat and cough intensified on day two, and my chest began to burn.

I drank gallons of cold water, which was the only thing that soothed my burning throat and chest. For the first time in ages, I didn’t have a jones for coffee. No alcohol either. It was a virus-induced purge.

Then, as suddenly as it had come on, about midway through day five, I started feeling better. Day six was even better, and so on. Now on day 10 everything has abated but an occasional cough which produces a bunch of horrid phlegm. All five of us are now feeling like we’re headed back to normal.

All this to say I’m grateful for the effective, free and easily accessible COVID vaccines. Had we not all been jabbed, who knows how it might have turned out? I’m slightly immunocompromised, with a history of infection and cancer; if I hadn’t availed myself to the highly effective, free and easily accessible vaccine and booster, I wonder how this might have turned out for me.

By now most of us know folks who have chosen not to vaccinate. Some have paid for this choice with their lives. I’ve thought a lot in the past few days about a friend of mine who died last month from COVID. He chose this route. I miss him, and yes, I’m angry he’s not here, likely but for that one ill-advised decision.

As I was in the throes of my own COVID journey, on day three, when I was wondering if the virus might keep progressing to the point where I might have to make a trip to an already overflowing hospital, I thought only about survival. I thought about my friend Roman who’s been in the ICU battling COVID pneumonia for two weeks. He still there, fighting for his life. Politics? Nope. I thought about my kids, my fiancé and our plans, my friends, my family, and my “affairs,” which are definitely not in order.

Now that I’m recovered I’m back to my morning coffee, and yeah, I’ve had a celebratory cocktail. I’m also back to thinking on what it might take to separate the vaccines from the cynical profiteers of their politicization. We all know who wins in this life-and-death game folks are playing with this issue, and it isn’t regular working people.

We’ve been at this vaccine business more than a year now in the U.S., with 204 million of us fully protected, representing 62% of the country. It’s such a simple, easy thing to do, to get vaccinated; why anyone would choose to ignore good science to prove fealty to a political party or ideology, or to exercise their “freedom,” I will never understand. The myths about the perils of the COVID vaccine have all been debunked.

It’s not the vaccinated who are dying. A Texas Department of State Health Services study — yeah, that Texas — tracked lone star state covid deaths from January 15, 2021 to Oct. 1, and found unvaccinated people there were 40 times more likely to die from covid than fully vaccinated people. A similar study from the Washington State Department of Health found that 75% of its approximately 4,611 65-and-older residents who died from covid over roughly that same period were unvaccinated.

I wonder about my friend. Did he regret his stance on vaccines as his health worsened over weeks in the ICU? He told me few times early on in the pandemic that COVID was “just the flu.” I’ve read several stories quoting ICU doctors and nurses reporting COVID patients denying the existence of the virus right up to the moment of their deaths. There are also reports of dying folks wishing they’d listened to the science.

My hope is my friend’s death will at the least serve to raise a red flag for the folks he knew that thought like he did. If just one of them decided, “To hell with ideology and politics,” and got vaccinated, maybe that person would survive if they got infected. And maybe that person will tell somebody else. Isn’t that the only way we’ll ever be rid of this virus?

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