The past few years have been the hardest years of my life. I’ve written about my husband’s long-term illness in other posts and about his death in March of this year, but I want to write about some care decisions along the way, especially vaccines.
My husband, as my regular readers know, had late stage COPD and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). He was diagnosed with COPD in 1999 and NPH in 2012, although he had the symptoms of NPH from around 2006-2007, when he started walking with a strange side-to-side gait and falling frequently. Along the way significant short-term memory problems became apparent too.
The initial VP shunt in his ventricle drained the fluid from his ventricle and he regained some mobility, walking with a walker, but his short-term memory problems never improved and continued to worsen.
In 2018 he was hospitalized with sepsis and the neuro-surgeon did shunt revision surgery, after my husband recovered from sepsis and spent two weeks in a rehabilitation hospital, to regain his strength. He never regained much mobility and that declined steadily, as did the memory problems.
In Dec. 2019, the neurosurgeon told me that some NPH patients develop symptoms very similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. My husband had both, with increasing dementia and tremors in his right hand and right leg. He was mostly wheelchair-bound by 2019 and needed assistance with all basic care.
In late January 2020, our son got a very bad upper-respiratory infection and had a lot of difficulty breathing, but he refused to go to the doctor. And shortly thereafter my husband got sick, coughing and lots of lung congestion. His primary care doctor prescribed antibiotics and a steroid. A few days later, things declined much more and my husband was very weak, I could hear his chest rattling even a few feet away, but he didn’t want to go to the ER. He fell forward off of his chair onto the floor. My son helped get him into the wheelchair and I took him to the ER.
My husband had acute respiratory failure. He had received his flu shot and was up to date on his pneumonia vaccine too. Yes, I’m one of the countless people who believe it was Covid, before the date of the first verified case in the US, but that’s not the point of this post – it’s about vaccines. My husband was in very poor health for a long time and any respiratory infection in his condition was potentially life-threatening.
After a few days in the hospital, my husband was discharged on home hospice and there began probably the most challenging experience of my life – full-time caregiver to someone who is completely bed-bound.
My husband “survived” that infection, but he never recovered to even the level of function, where he had been before that infection. He would have a few days, occasionally even a few weeks of appearing better, followed by days or weeks where he slept most of the time and I’d think he was close to the end. The hospice nurses monitored his condition and told me these ups and downs are common with hospice patients. This went on for 13 months.
I had no idea what hospice care actually does, since most people I had known who opted for hospice care died very quickly. The doctor did not expect my husband to survive very long either, with the condition of his lungs. During those 13 months, my husband had several infections and was prescribed antibiotics. The hospice nurse told me that while antibiotics won’t change the outcome of his condition, treating infections relieves suffering and helps keep him comfortable.
My husband’s hospice provider also administered flu vaccines to patients who wanted them. I had them give my husband the flu vaccine, because although I knew my husband was going to die, I wanted him to die as painlessly as possible and having the flu is awful, especially for someone who already has a debilitating lung disease. If Covid vaccines had been available and recommended for hospice patients, I would have talked to my husband’s hospice team and had him receive a Covid vaccine, for the very same reason..
If you ever watch someone in acute respiratory failure, you would want to do everything you can to prevent that.
Luckily, the overwhelming majority of people who receive the Covid vaccine can just go about their lives. It’s free and easily accessible all over the country.
There’s so much politicization of everything pertaining to Covid. There’s also information and misinformation overload in our digital age. I’ve listened to experts talk about spike proteins and all sorts of potential long-term risks with the Covid vaccines.
I’ve listened to some experts minimize risks too, making it sound like there are absolutely no potential serious side effects., but here’s my opinion about “risk” when it comes to medications and especially vaccines.
The evidence of vaccines literally changing the world and saving millions of lives is overwhelming.
Yes, I know, the Covid vaccines are experimental. When my doctor prescribes FDA-approved medications, I still read the warnings on the medication and many have a lot of serious potential adverse reactions, that are rare. I take that into consideration and almost always opt to take them, because I trust my doctor’s advice and because I think about the risks vs. benefits. Life isn’t risk-free, it’s about weighing options. There seems to be a pervasive mass Covid hysteria, I think, mostly because of the unknown nature of Covid and compounded by political and media fear-mongering, that’s creating unnecessary fear and panic reactions, that impede people’s ability to calmly assess, not only the risk, but the potential benefit.
I received the Moderna vaccine in March (2nd shot in April) and have not for a moment regretted that decision. I had more anxiety with radiation treatments many years ago, and although years later I had some long-term problems from the radiation treatment, they were not life-threatening and the alternative was I probably wouldn’t be alive today, if I had not had those 8 weeks of radiation treatment.
In America, we all have the right to decide for ourselves on medical treatments, but I urge anyone on the fence to talk to their doctor and discuss Covid vaccines. I do know someone with a serious medical condition, whose doctor recommended he not get the vaccine and we should all respect that some people will opt not to get the vaccine.
I am completely opposed to mandatory masking, mandatory lockdowns and absolutely against mandatory vaccines. I am against all of the surveillance state type tracking of social distancing monitoring being tried in several countries and I am completely against vaccine passports and these corporate efforts to punish, silence, and now even force employees to get vaccinated or be fired. What I refuse to do though, is look at vaccines through a political lens and I hope many conservatives, Republicans, and MAGA supporters resist the urge to diss vaccines to “own the libs.”
Both Republicans and Democrats have politicized Covid, as have many of our public health officials, but the truth is we all need to try to work together as Americans and pull together to get through this Covid challenge a stronger nation.