Unvaccinated, hospitalized: Patient now advocates for shots

Aug 4, 2021, 7:00 PM
A paramedic follows strict protocols disrobing from his protective equipment after working with COV...

A paramedic follows strict protocols disrobing from his protective equipment after working with COVID-19 patient Cedric Daniels, 37, of Gonzales, La., at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Louisiana is leading the nation in the number of new COVID cases per capita and remains one of the bottom five states in administering vaccinations. (AP Photo/Ted Jackson)

(AP Photo/Ted Jackson)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Cedric Daniels and Joshua Bradstreet Contreras didn’t think they really needed the coronavirus vaccine. After all, the uncle and nephew are both young — 37 and 22, respectively — and Contreras was “as healthy as a horse,” Daniels said.

But just days after Daniels went to visit Contreras in New Orleans — a long-awaited reunion that came after not seeing each other for months because of the pandemic — the nephew was rushed away in an ambulance. He couldn’t breathe, even when sitting completely still. He is now in a hospital in a New Orleans suburb, on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma.

At about the same time, Daniels started feeling weak, had blurred vision and was so short of breath he could barely make it from his couch in the living room to the bathroom. He tested positive for the virus, then went to a hospital in Baton Rouge already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, where he stayed for a week on oxygen as he recovered from pneumonia.

Contreras and Daniels are among a flood of patients filling up overloaded hospitals across the U.S. amid a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the virus’s highly contagious delta variant. Health officials say the most serious cases have been among the unvaccinated.

“It is frustrating, because it’s preventable … but more than that, it’s really sad,” said James Ford, a critical care doctor in the ICU at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where Daniels was treated.

To help with the influx, the hospital brought in a disaster medical assistance team of nearly three dozen health care workers on Monday. That same day, hospital leaders at a news conference where Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a reinstated statewide mask mandate described grim conditions across Louisiana: facilities filled with COVID-19 patients, including children, and hospital hallways lined with stretchers because there aren’t enough beds.

“A lot of them are debilitated and need around-the-clock care,” said Ford, who has been working on his days off to help ease his hospital’s burden. “It’s very labor intensive.”

Some of those patients, like Daniels, now wish they had taken the shot.

“They’re talking about putting tubes down your throat possibly if your oxygen doesn’t go up within the next hour, and that is frightening,” he told The Associated Press on Monday as he lay in a bed with an oxygen tube in his nose. He was released shortly afterward but still must use oxygen at home.

“I am now a huge advocate for doctor’s orders,” Daniels added. “They think we ought to get vaccinated, I think we ought to get vaccinated.”

Daniels, who lives in Gonzales, about 57 miles (92 kilometers) northwest of New Orleans, said he and Contreras were the only unvaccinated members of their households. Daniels’ wife and live-in mother-in-law, both of whom were inoculated months ago, have both tested negative twice since he tested positive.

Contreras’ mother, Tarsha Bradstreet, had also been vaccinated, as had her 19-year-old son who lives in the same house in New Orleans. Bradstreet said she tried to persuade Contreras to get the shot, but said she had only so much pull over him.

“Josh hardly goes anywhere since COVID hit, so he didn’t think he needed the vaccine,” Bradstreet said.

One of the places to which Contreras did go, however, was his summer job at Café Reconcile. About the time he started getting ill, he got a call from the restaurant telling him that a co-worker had tested positive for the virus and he needed to get tested himself.

“He had a headache and some nausea, so at first we thought it was dehydration,” Bradstreet said. “A week later, he couldn’t smell. He couldn’t breathe. I noticed his breath was quick and rapid, and he could barely stand up or do anything. I had to call an ambulance.”

A while later, the hospital called and said, “‘Your son is on a ventilator,’ and I almost died,” Bradstreet said. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize how serious it was. I didn’t know. He almost died.”

Bradstreet talks to her son every day through one of the hospital’s portable laptops, so that he can hear her voice even if he can’t see her.

She also prays a lot, and hopes that sharing her son’s story will motivate others who have not yet been vaccinated to go and get the shot.

“When we go through things, it’s to help other people, to teach people something,” she said. “Their choice may leave them in the hospital. Maybe they’ll get the lesson before they have to go through this.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

A little girl holds her stuffed animal high above the water as migrants, many from Haiti, wade acro...
Associated Press

Options shrink for Haitian migrants straddling Texas border

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — The options remaining for thousands of Haitian migrants straddling the Mexico-Texas border are narrowing as the United States government ramps up to an expected six expulsion flights to Haiti Tuesday and Mexico began busing some away from the border. More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants had been removed from […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this June 4, 2019, file photo, anti-abortion advocates gather outside the Planned Parenth...
Associated Press

Federal appeals court to hear Missouri abortion law case

A federal appeals court on Tuesday will consider whether Missouri can implement a sweeping law aimed at limiting abortions. The law adopted in 2019 would ban abortions at or around the eighth week of pregnancy. It also would prohibit abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. […]
21 hours ago
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones celebrates his touchdown run during the second half of an NFL footba...
Associated Press

Packers dominate 2nd half, bounce back to beat Lions 35-17

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Jones caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score, and the Green Bay Packers had a welcome return to normal after an embarrassing opening-week loss, beating the Detroit Lions 35-17 on Monday night. Green Bay (1-1) won its ninth straight home opener. The […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this July 24, 2021, file photo former President Donald Trump smiles as he pauses while sp...
Associated Press

Trump endorses ‘big lie’ proponents for state election posts

NEW YORK (AP) — Before winning Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement in his race to become Arizona’s top election official, Mark Finchem received several calls from people close to the former president making clear they approved of the work he was doing to challenge the results of the 2020 election. “They said I had been noticed,” […]
21 hours ago
A little girl holds her stuffed animal high above the water as migrants, many from Haiti, wade acro...
Associated Press

US officials defend expulsion of Haitians from Texas town

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from an encampment at a Texas border town, U.S. officials said Monday as they defended a strong response that included immediately expelling migrants to their impoverished Caribbean country and faced criticism for using horse patrols to stop them from entering […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this April 26, 1997, file photo, George Holliday points to the spot along a roadside in t...
Associated Press

George Holliday, who filmed Rodney King video, dies of COVID

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died of complications of COVID-19, a friend said Monday. Holliday, 61, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been for more than a month, according […]
21 hours ago
Unvaccinated, hospitalized: Patient now advocates for shots