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‘I should’ve listened to my wife’: Man changes his mind on vaccine after surviving COVID-19

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:30 PM AKDT
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EAGLE RIVER, Alaska (KTUU) - About 19 months into the pandemic, most people would agree that there are sides now when it comes to COVID-19 and the vaccines meant to protect people from the virus, as conversation over public health measures has been politicized. Every now and again, a story comes up where someone goes through the worst days of their life in the hospital after contracting the illness, and begs to get the vaccine even though it’s too late.

Jake Sharek in Eagle River is one person who did change his mind about the vaccine after thinking he wouldn’t leave the hospital alive due to COVID-19.

It was in late August when he said he started to feel bad.

“You know, normal flu symptoms,” Sharek said. “But then when I started having the breathing problems is when I kind of figured somethings not right here.”

His symptoms worsened, and his wife, Heather Sharek, brought him to a crowded emergency room at Alaska Regional Hospital. They said he stayed there for almost 10 days before getting transferred to the ICU.

“They kind of walked me through what they were going to be doing, and the next thing I know I was out,” Jake Sharek said.

His oxygen levels dropping, he was put on a ventilator and a lot of medications. Jake Sharek said he was in the ICU for 17 days like that. He said he thought he was going to die. He barely remembers anything from that time, he said.

“The first time I talked to him, he didn’t recognize who I was,” Heather Sharek said.

“What I do remember is just looking at my arms, and not being able to move my legs and not being able to talk,” Jake Sharek said.

Heather Sharek said she’s a medical assistant and endoscopy technician. When the vaccines started to roll out, she said she started to ask the doctors where she works about them. She said they gave her information about what they were, how they were produced, and other things that Sharek said were informative, but non-persuasive.

She made the choice to get vaccinated, and told her husband about it. She said he wasn’t too happy at the time.

“He was a little bit upset with me for having gone and got it,” Heather Sharek said, “I said, ‘this is something you should consider, because you don’t want to get sick.’ He’s like, ‘aw I’m not gonna get sick. I don’t know anybody who’s got it. It’s gonna be fine.’”

He wanted nothing to do with the shots up until he went to the hospital with COVID-19.

Since it is such a transmissible virus, Heather ended up getting it too, even though she was vaccinated. But her COVID-19 story goes very differently.

“I did not have a fever, I had body aches, I was incredibly tired,” she said. “I could barely make it from the bed to the couch, and that’s pretty much where I stayed for three days. ... Three or four days in, I had a little bit of a cough and a stuffy nose, but that was it. It really wasn’t that bad for me.”

It’s been a few weeks since Jake Sharek got out of the ICU. He said it’s still hard to talk and move. Right now he’s going to physical therapy two or three times a week to build up his strength. Heather Sharek said her husband lost over 40 pounds while in the hospital.

After he started getting better, he said one of the first things he remembered is what he told his wife about the vaccine.

“Remembering that, ‘jeez, my wife was hounding me about getting me a vaccine,’” Jake Sharek said. “You know, she went and got her vaccine, and I told her ‘no I’m not getting no vaccine, it’s just some, you know, political deal. Who knows what the government is putting in my arm,’ blah blah blah. ... And now that I look back on it I’m like, jeez, I should’ve listened to my wife and went at got the vaccine.”

He now has plans to get vaccinated, and said he’ll be getting the flu shot at the same time.

Now that he’s on the upswing, Sharek said he doesn’t want others to go through the same thing he did. He said people should stop trusting social media and people who aren’t the experts as much, learn about the vaccine from health care professionals and consider taking the shot to avoid a story like his or one that ends in a worse way.

“You need to go talk to your doctor,” he said. “Talk to your physician and find out what he recommends, because those are the guys that are on the front line, or women that are on the front line. And they see what’s going on every day, and they know what’s working.”

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