A vaccine-hesitant Merritt man who spent nearly a month in hospital battling COVID-19 hopes his ordeal will encourage unvaccinated British Columbians to consider rolling up their sleeves.
Dave Garcia said he was on the fence about the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, when he was offered a dose for the first time.
“I’m First Nations, so I had a head start on the ability to get the vaccination,” Garcia, 39, told Castanet.
“I chose not to because I wanted to see how it was going to play out. It was never in my mind that I wasn’t going to get it — I was definitely thinking of getting it. I was just holding off to see if there’s going to be side-effects. I wasn’t sold on it, and I definitely realize that mistake now.”
Garcia said he started to feel sick in mid-May. He tested positive for COVID-19 on May 20.
Four days later, with worsening symptoms sending him into 45-second “coughing fits” that left him breathless, Garcia was admitted to hospital in Merritt.
Two days later, he was transferred to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops for treatment of COVID pneumonia in intensive care. On May 28, with his symptoms worsening still, doctors placed Garcia in a medically induced coma.
He woke up on June 4, but would remain on a ventilator for a number of days.
Garcia was discharged from hospital on June 15. More than two months later, he is still feeling the effects of his illness.
“My body is catching up and getting back to normal,” he said. “There was a lot of muscle loss, a lot of motor stuff that I had to re-learn, but it didn’t take much.”
Garcia said his lungs are only at about 60 per cent. He said doctors told him his lung function may never fully recover.
By the time he was released from hospital, Garcia said he had his mind made up about getting the vaccine.
He had to wait eight weeks, having recently recovered from the virus, but Garcia got his first shot in mid-August. He will go in for his second in the coming weeks.
Garcia said the ordeal was a wake-up call for him and his family.
“I’m not here to say one way or another whether vaccines work or are the best thing,” he said.
“But I think a glimpse into what people are going through with this virus and what families are having to face when they are finding members in my position might help you make more of an informed choice about what you want to do, rather than reading the jargon and arguments all over social media and getting caught up in that.”