My COVID-19 survival story: Why you should get the COVID-19 vaccine


Dortha Breaux for Nursing Blog

Life is such a precious gift. Whether it’s spending time with my husband and our four grown children, staying virtually connected with our extended family and friends, or playing with our beautiful 6-year-old granddaughter, I am thankful to be alive and celebrate these precious moments. Every day, I count my blessings and appreciate every aspect of my life, even when faced with unexpected challenges.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving last year, I never imagined I’d be fighting the biggest battle of my life. One minute, I was healthy. The next minute, I was struggling to breathe as my life hung in the balance. Since I had a history of asthma, my doctor thought I had come down with severe bronchitis and I was treated for that initially. As each day passed, though, I grew weaker and weaker. My respiratory condition was worsening and my oxygen levels began to drop significantly. At one point, my saturation levels were less than 80 percent. I was extremely weak and it was difficult to get out of bed. My husband frantically rushed me to the emergency room. After doctors ran several tests, they found the culprit that had been ravaging my fragile lungs and causing me so much pain and discomfort – I tested positive for COVID-19 pneumonia.

As a radiology nurse at Texas Children’s, I know how important it is for us to follow safety precautions to protect ourselves against COVID-19 both at work and at home. Throughout the pandemic, my husband and our children have heard me say over and over again – wash your hands often, wear your masks and practice social distancing. One thing I have learned about COVID-19 is this virus does not discriminate. You can be young or old, live a sedentary or physically active lifestyle, and you can still contract this virus. While the practices I mentioned above remain crucial, another effective weapon in our fight against COVID-19 is the vaccine.

After my COVID-19 diagnosis, I was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Several days passed before my husband and children would hear back from me. I was in pretty bad shape. As I fought for my life in my hospital bed, little did I know my husband had left a voicemail message for me the same day he rushed me to the ER. I didn’t get a chance to listen to it until three days later. Feeling so helpless, my husband’s voicemail said, “I didn’t get a chance to tell you goodbye. I didn’t even tell you how much you mean to me. Please change your mind, Deedy. Please change your advanced directive. Let them use a ventilator if they need to. I don’t care if you are damaged. I love you and will do whatever it takes to care for you.”

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to my husband’s message. My family was living in limbo wondering if my condition was worsening or if I was getting better. No one could reach my nurse for a call back because she had three very ill COVID-19 patients to take care of at the same time. Finally, my eldest daughter showed up at the hospital’s waiting area and my nurse went down to update her. By the grace of God, the COVID-19 treatments were working. I was prescribed a combination of therapies including remdesivir (anti-viral medication), steroids to heal my badly inflamed lungs, blood thinners to reduce my risk of pulmonary embolism which is common in COVID-19 patients, and plasma infusion.

Miraculously, three days later, I was feeling much better and my oxygen levels were improving. When my doctor noticed how well I was doing, she told me, “I have treated two people this week younger than you. They were not as sick as you when they got here, and they didn’t have underlying conditions of asthma and hypertension. They received the same treatment as you and they both didn’t make it.” When I heard this, I was stunned. Why did I live and so many other precious lives didn’t get that second chance?

Sadly, COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. We need to trust the science and do our part to protect ourselves and those around us. I will receive my vaccine in mid-March because per protocol, I have to wait five months after my plasma infusion to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. While there are many people who are nervous about getting the shot – they want to wait and see what side effects will occur in people who already received both shots – my advice to you is don’t wait when you are eligible to receive it. Time is of the essence.

The temporary discomfort of a sore arm, a fever and/or flu-like symptoms is nothing in comparison to what you could experience when you have COVID-19. Believe me, you don’t want to deal with these awful symptoms. While I was on oxygen for several weeks, I had lingering side effects including vision loss, tremors and neuropathy that eventually went away. I remember I couldn’t hold a pen, drive a car or swallow water because my throat hurt so badly. Ten weeks later, I am getting back to normal.

When Texas Children’s received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, I cried happy tears. I knew my prayers had been answered. Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective means to stop the spread.

As a nurse, wife, mother and grandmother, I am grateful to our organization for making the COVID-19 vaccine available to our employees and staff, especially high-risk groups including minorities and those individuals with co-morbidities of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and/or lung disease. With my history of asthma and hypertension, COVID-19 almost killed me. That’s one of the reasons it hit me as hard and fast as it did.

Life is too precious. I don’t want anyone to experience what I went through. For these reasons, I encourage you to consider getting your COVID-19 vaccine now rather than later.