A Prince George’s County, Maryland, mother and grandmother spent months in her home, hoping to ride out the pandemic without getting vaccinated. Then, she got COVID-19.
Linda Mercer, 54, said she was hesitant to get vaccinated even though a blood clot condition put her at high risk for the virus.
"I didn't want to be a test dummy and I was adamant that I'm not putting that in my body," Mercer said. "Adamant until I got COVID."
Mercer said her feelings about the vaccine changed after she got COVID-19 from her grandchildren over the summer.
Months later, she struggles to feel like herself as she deals with lingering physical and neurological side effects from the virus.
"I got very sick. I started having night sweats, fevers, body aches all over me," she said. "As the days went, I got worse. When I got up to walk, I could not breathe."
Mercer's symptoms got so bad she was rushed to the hospital and doctors told her she had pneumonia brought on by her coronavirus infection.
"I'm thinking, OK, well … I can't survive from this. I already have an issue with my lung. My blood clots are in the main arteries of my lungs. So now my lungs is getting ready to do double work," Mercer said.
She spent several days in the hospital before her condition improved. But the retired Metro worker is still struggling to recover at home. Dealing with long haul COVID symptoms, including headaches, chronic pain and muscle aches.
"It can vary so much in person to person on the effect that it has on someone.
It can be anything from muscle aches and poor exercise tolerance to brain fog and headaches. So, you know, lots of different symptoms and it can look different, and we're still learning a lot about it," Dr. Mona Gahunia, an infectious disease physician with Kaiser Permanente, said.
Gahunia has seen the damage the unpredictable virus can do.
"I can't enjoy that quality of life because I don't know how long these long haul effects
will last," Mercer said.
Even as new coronavirus cases fall nationwide – vaccine hesitancy remains high as we head towards the busy holiday season and extra opportunities for the virus to spread.
"This is the time, if you haven't gotten vaccinated, to go ahead and do it
before we see any possible surges associated with more indoor gatherings," Dr. Mona Gahunia said.
A recent survey found that mistrust in the government and the vaccines themselves,
has kept millions of Americans from getting a coronavirus vaccine.
Many fear vaccine side effects, some with no evidence they exist. That’s why Mercer is sharing her story and her decision to get vaccinated after surviving
COVID. She said she hopes to encourage others to roll up their sleeves and prevent the pain she continues to endure.
"So that this may help you make a decision from someone that is experiencing it,
have experienced it, still going through it and make a decision from that," Mercer said.
Doctors say even people who have gotten infected with the coronavirus should get the vaccine, because it provides a stronger and longer lasting level of immunity than a natural infection.