If the old adage is true that in order to really tell another person's story it's best to experience it yourself, then I'm more than qualified.
After more than a year of assiduously following protocols and being among the first in line last February for the double doses of the Pfizer vaccine, I nevertheless ended up in the hospital a couple of weeks ago with a full-fledged dose of COVID-19. And it wasn't fun.
Yes, I was one of the "lucky" ones to contract a still rare breakthrough version of the disease that thanks to the coronavirus' delta variant is raging through the ranks of the unvaccinated and throwing a monkey wrench into everything that we as a nation have accomplished this year.
It all began a couple of weeks ago when I started experiencing a mild cough, figuring that, alas, I had finally come down with one of my usual annual colds that with some decent sleep and a few doses of Tylenol would soon disappear, as always.
But it didn't go away. Two days later, a Friday, the cough had worsened and my breathing was labored, so off to the clinic I went. To underscore just how cavalierly we've become about this disease, particularly here in well-vaccinated Dane County, no COVID test was ordered, just a prescription for a weekend's worth of antibiotics with instructions to call back Monday.
By Monday I was a hurting 81-year-old. X-rays at urgent care revealed that at the least I had a severe case of pneumonia. And then, after an impromptu ambulance ride to St. Mary's Emergency Room, finally a test revealed the hard-to-accept verdict: My pneumonia was caused by COVID. Within minutes I was whisked to St. Mary's eighth floor, the COVID ward, and attached to oxygen. All I could think of was, "God, I hope it doesn't get any worse than this."
It didn't. Thanks to an experienced team led by St. Mary's hospitalist Dr. Santiago Hernandez and nurses like Carly and Ken, all veterans in this epic health struggle, I was spared from ICU three floors below. By the fourth day I was off oxygen and breathing on my own once again.
My wife, Sandy, also tested positive, but her symptoms included about a day-long bout with the sniffles, which is commonly the case when the vaccinated wind up getting infected. My ending up in the hospital was an anomaly.
So does this mean that the vaccines are overrated? That those who refuse them for whatever selfish or political reasons are right? On the contrary. The simple fact that both my wife and I had the shots probably saved us — particularly me — from a health catastrophe.
What angers me is that we could be well beyond this seemingly endless crisis if as a nation we would have pulled together and put an end to this awful crisis by using the tools that are available to us.
Instead, a smug cadre of charlatan politicians, think tanks that conclude our "constitutional rights" to get sick and infect our families and neighbors are somehow paramount, and just plain American stupid stubbornness has allowed a variant like the delta to emerge and once again create havoc. And as the doctors warn, if we don't get our act together this isn't the end.
I felt very safe returning to "normalcy" earlier this summer — ball games, restaurants, lunch with friends — but have been rudely awakened.
It didn't have to be, nor should it continue to be. For God's sake, get your shots.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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