Don’t put off getting vaccinated, says COVID survivor
After living through a tug-of-war with death, COVID-19 survivor Shirley Maddin has a message for the unvaccinated: “Don’t be bullheaded. Get the vaccine.”
Her daughter, Sue Maddin, is even more direct.
“Don’t be fricking stupid. Everybody was vaxxed as a child. What’s your damn problem now?”
Shirley got COVID-19 in early April 2021. At that time, the 70-year-old was living in a seniors’ apartment complex in Lloydminster, having moved there from her farm north of Paradise Hill. She was self-sufficient and independent – traits that were essential earlier in her life while managing a large market garden and raising a big family along with cows, pigs and chickens.
Now, Shirley is living with Sue and needs help with simple, everyday tasks.
“I can’t do the things I did before COVID,” she said. “It drastically changes your ability to function.”
Added Sue, “She had to learn how to swallow, breathe, eat, walk, talk, sleep all over again. A little five minute walk and she’s out of gas. She can’t go far. She can’t stand long. She’s on oxygen.
“She’s made progress. When she first got out of hospital, I had to cut her food smaller than [I would for] a toddler. She needs constant care. We’re hoping she can be independent but I don’t know if that’s possible.”
This previously healthy non-smoker now has chronic progressive pulmonary disease, Type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation -- an irregular, often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart.
“I can get full taking all these pills,” said Shirley who now takes more than 20 pills daily. Pre-COVID, she took six.
Shirley had always intended to get vaccinated – she strongly encouraged her children to do so. She just put it off. She practiced infection and prevention control measures like masking and social distancing and thought that would be enough until she got the jab. The virus had other plans.
In all, Shirley was in hospital from April 16 to July 6. Much of that time was spent in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon. She was admitted there after being airlifted to the facility via STARS from Lloydminster. She has no memory of what happened during the first two months at St. Paul’s because she was in a medically induced coma after being intubated.
While Shirley was unconscious, her family were coming to terms with the cold reality that their mother may die.
“It was so touch and go,” said Sue.
On three occasions, hospital staff contacted Shirley’s six children – Richard, Jennifer, Janice, Tammy, Justin and Sue – to come say goodbye.
The emotional ups and downs were made all the more difficult by the fact that, for the first month of Shirley’s hospitalization, COVID restrictions required Shirley’s family to sit in the hallway, outside of her room.
“We couldn’t hold her hand or talk to her. That felt awful,” said Sue.
Even as restrictions eased, only two people at a time were allowed in the ICU and, after Shirley’s health improved and she was moved to an inpatient unit, only one family member could register see her at a time. Visiting was a juggling act for the family – many of whom had to travel.
Despite the difficulties Shirley now faces, she says she’s grateful to be alive and credits the power of prayer and her medical team for making it so.
“I prayed every day while I was in hospital for recovery so I could be here with my children,” she said. “I’ve been told I’m a miracle. They didn’t think I would make it.”
Sue said people need to understand that its medical professionals, not Dr. Google, who they need to listen to.
“Sit in the ICU. I did. I sat and watched people die. I learned it’s all the unvaccinated people who end up in the ICU. Talk to the medical professionals who deal with this every day, who are saving lives, who are working so frickin’ hard.
“Without that ICU staff, mom wouldn’t be here.”