‘This could have been me’: B.C. family that was once vaccine-hesitant loses loved one to COVID

Click to play video: 'B.C. family shares heartbreak of COVID-19 loss'
B.C. family shares heartbreak of COVID-19 loss
An initially vaccine-hesitant B.C. family is sharing their heartbreaking ordeal that ended with the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. Julia Foy reports – Sep 5, 2021

Burnaby, B.C., mom and nurse Rika Johnson is getting a tattoo in memory of her husband, Jeremy.

“We were together for 25 years and he passed a week before our wedding anniversary,” Johnson said.

Johnson, Jeremy, and their two sons all contracted COVID-19 around Easter of this year. She had yet to receive a first dose of vaccine.

“I was watching to see how people’s reactions were because I’m quite sensitive and I get really sick from the flu shot,” Johnson said. “So I wanted to just kind of wait it out a little bit.”

“I was always going to get it, but I didn’t want to get sick and then have to miss work from getting the shot.”

Jeremy ended up in hospital — first Burnaby Hospital, then Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

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Click to play video: 'Behind the scenes: Despite dropping numbers, B.C. COVID hospital wards still busy'
Behind the scenes: Despite dropping numbers, B.C. COVID hospital wards still busy

“I’d love to get back to normal, 100 per cent,” Johnson said at the time.

That sense of normalcy never returned. Jeremy would fight complications from the disease for five months. He died on Aug. 13.

Click to play video: 'Another young B.C. COVID-19 victim warns it’s not just ‘another flu’'
Another young B.C. COVID-19 victim warns it’s not just ‘another flu’

Johnson’s sister, Aiyana Collins, was also hesitant about getting immunized, and then she saw Jeremy.

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“Seeing him hooked up to the machines and on life support, it was like reality slapped me in the face,” Collins said.

Both sisters are now immunized against COVID-19 and are speaking out following recent anti-vaccine protests outside B.C. hospitals.

“It does frustrate me because there are people in there that are fighting for their lives who have COVID,” Collins said. “You have people in there who are going through hell and back, like my family did.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. woman who lost husband to COVID trying to get answers'
B.C. woman who lost husband to COVID trying to get answers

An online fundraiser has been set up to help the family, who are struggling to recover from a series of misfortunes.

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With the arrival of B.C.’s vaccine card system coming soon, Collins offered this advice: “If Jeremy never caught COVID, he would be here today. If Jeremy caught the flu, he would be here today.

“The next time somebody wants to scream that it’s a violation of your personal rights and freedoms, just remember it’s you taking away the rights and freedoms for others to actually live.”

Johnson said she doesn’t want others to go through what her family experienced.

“You don’t want to end up like Jeremy,” she said. “He was 44 years old and he leaves behind a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old, and me.”

“If you don’t want to die at whatever age you are, regardless if you’re young or old, then you should consider getting the vaccine.

“Because I got the vaccine. I’m fine and I’m not going to let my children be without both of their parents.”

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