Fighting for Air: Testimonials from West Virginia families, doctors highlight seriousness of COVID-19
CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice and state COVID-19 response officials have spent the last few weeks preaching the same message on the need for vaccinations, but on Monday’s briefing they let a family member of a COVID patient and a doctor on the front lines do the speaking.
During Justice’s Monday COVID briefing at the State Capitol Building, the governor introduced Kanawha County resident Linda Lanier, whose 40-year-old son Joe is hospitalized with COVID-19. Lanier joined Monday’s briefing virtually.
Joe was active as a mixed martial arts fighter and frequent Tough Man contestant, but despite being in good physical health, he got infected with COVID-19 in July after traveling for a competition with Lanier and her husband.
“Joey ended up with COVID, I ended up with COVID, and my husband ended up with COVID,” Lanier said. “I had the vaccine. So did my husband and we had the antibodies, and we did not have a hard time. But Joey, on the other hand, was on a family vacation and became very sick … when he came back from his vacation, I told him ‘Joey, you need to go straight to (the hospital) and you need to be seen.'”
Lanier said her son was also supposed to join her for the governor’s briefing from the hospital, but he was still too sick to participate. He was put into an ICU bed and put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine for five weeks to help give his lungs a break while he recovered. He has since been placed on a ventilator and kept sedated seven weeks after being admitted.
“Before Joey got so sick that he couldn’t talk, he told people ‘get vaccinated, you don’t want this stuff,'” Lanier said. “Several of his friends have gotten vaccinated since that time.”
Lanier said her son had declined vaccination after listening to misinformation about the vaccine on social media. She, who has a background in healthcare, tried to talk to her son about the seriousness of COVID and the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“He listened to his friends, he listened to social media, and he listened to what I call the garbage that is out there,” Lanier said. “If you have questions, go to a physician. Go to someone who knows. Let them answer your questions, because that is where the true answers are. This COVID is a monster. If it can take down my son … what’s it going to do to the average person?”
Joining Justice in person Monday was one of the physicians who help treat Lanier’s son, Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha.
Takubo, a respiratory doctor who practices in the Charleston area, said doctors have tried all kinds of treatments for COVID-19, including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Both drugs are FDA-approved to treat other kinds of illness, but there is little evidence either are effective against COVID-19. Takubo said the best way to avoid serious infection are the vaccines.
“This is a pandemic primarily of the unvaccinated,” Takubo said. “We’ve tried a lot of things and a lot of things didn’t work. A lot of things we were told not to do we should have been doing. As we’ve gone along and become more educated and more experienced, we’ve learned a lot … the one thing I’m seeing is the vaccine doe work.”
According to data released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Resources, 83.6 percent of the 852 COVID-19 hospitalizations are unvaccinated people, with 90.3 percent of ICU beds taken up by the unvaccinated. Of the 2,139 COVID deaths since vaccinations were available, 95.4 percent were unvaccinated.
Takubo urged the public to avoid misinformation spread on social media about the vaccine. Takubo said certain reactions, such as aches, chills, and soreness at the injection site, is normal.
“One of the concerns that a lot of people say is ‘I don’t want to take the vaccine because there is a potential for some side effect that may happen,'” Takubo said. “Show me a hospital that is overran by vaccine injuries. I’ve yet to admit one person with an injury from the vaccine.
“When you get the vaccine, there is a difference between an adverse reaction and a side effect,” Takubo continued. “If you get the vaccine and you have aches and chills and soreness in your arm, that’s letting you know the vaccine worked. In fact, I’d be almost a little more concerned if I had no reaction at all to the vaccine.”
Justice said he hopes the messages from Lanier and Takubo help cut through the clutter of misinformation and motivate West Virginians to get vaccinated.
“Why in the world can we just listen … why can’t we just get vaccinated on a voluntary basis,” Justice asked. “What we hope and pray is we get such a high percentage of people who have stepped up and gotten vaccinated that we can stop this thing. We can stop this dreaded killer.”
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at email@example.com