A B.C. mother of two is sharing her experience battling COVID-19 after she decided not to get vaccinated in the hope that others will choose otherwise.
Sharlene Amerl, from Sooke on Vancouver Island, had leukemia when she was six years old and was worried about how she would react to the ingredients in the COVID vaccines.
She said messages posted on the internet seemed to confirm her fears.
Even though she was advised to get the vaccine and was assured it was safe, Amerl decided against it for herself and her 13-year-old daughter.
However, when her daughter contracted COVID, a few days later Amerl started getting really sick.
“I came down with a really bad headache behind my eyes, cold, shivers, and it just started to progress from there,” she said from her hospital bed Thursday as she struggled to breathe and talk.
“I was very nervous and scared inside but I tried to remain positive it was just a cold.”
She said she became so weak so quickly, all she could do was sleep for about 20 hours a day. She said she took vitamins and stayed hydrated but nothing worked.
“I chose, unfortunately, not to be vaccinated, because I thought I could beat the odds but also because I was terrified from the information I had read online about potential side-effects that seemed to have affected some people and it scared the living daylights out of me,” she said.
“Unfortunately I chose not to get vaccinated.”
Amerl said she eventually drove herself to a COVID testing centre and received a positive result, along with her daughter. Her 10-year-old son was negative.
Her doctor then told her to isolate herself from her children and drink fluids, which she did, but she still became sicker.
“I called the paramedics two times, two days apart and they both said ‘you seem to be managing on your own, the hospitals are so full, just tough it out if you can.'”
She said she didn’t have anyone to look after her children but on Monday morning, when she woke up, she could barely breathe or walk.
“I knew I was in real danger so I called 9-1-1 again and the paramedics came and thank God … they took one look at me and knew I needed help right away.”
Amerl was able to get a bed at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria and is lucky she did not need to be intubated. “But I was close,” she said, “and it’s going to be some time before I’m better. But I’m still alive.”
“And I will get to hold my kids again, I can’t wait for that.”
She is sharing her story because she said “the fear to get vaccinated, the fear not to get vaccinated, everything in between, all the worries that we go through” is real.
“In hindsight, I wish I would have gotten the vaccine because I might not be here right now, suffering with COVID.”
Amerl said she doesn’t know if sharing her story will help anyone but she hopes it does.
“I hope you never have to go through COVID because it is evil and there’s no toughing it out. Trust me, I tried.”
As of Thursday, 87.3 per cent (4,046,960) of eligible people aged 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 79.9 per cent (3,701,696) received their second dose.
Of all eligible adults in B.C., 87.8 per cent (3,799,479) have received their first dose and 80.7 per cent (3,490,764) have gotten both necessary shots.
On Thursday, however, B.C. recorded more than 800 new cases of COVID and five more deaths.
There are now 330 people in hospital, 148 of whom are in intensive care.