No, I’m not the kind of person who would go to a “COVID party” to intentional get COVID, because it is “natural” and will give me “natural immunities.” The problem with that notion is first, it is like playing Russian Roulette with a ten-chamber revolver. One chance in ten you will have long-haul consequences from COVID and .5-1% you will die from your experiment. Remember, about 99% of all human suffering and death is from things that are “natural.” The other thing, the vaccines seem to show better immunity than a natural infection and have about million times less risk ( for every one person who has died from a reaction to the vaccine, almost a million have died form the actual infection). As typical for me, this article is a little long, however, the caveat is that it has some lessons for all of us, and not just me telling a personal story.
I was sitting in the Minneapolis airport in early 2020. It was my first trip to see my grandsons after my bone marrow transplant. I heard on the TV at the gate that a new novel coronavirus had been detected in Wuhan and it appears that several people in a nursing home in my state (Washington) had died from it. I knew then, despite our president on TV saying it was nothing to worry about (he had re-election worries), I knew it would have a huge impact on the entire world. Everyone with public health and virology credentials knew that. I also knew it would be especially troubling for me, personally.
Within a few weeks I got a letter from my doctor at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance warning me that I’m in the highest risk category from the virus since I had; 1) a bone marrow cancer, 2) I had gone through a stem cell transplant, 3) had renal failure, was 4) on chemo, and 5) was on high dose steroids. The only thing that was in my favor was being under 90 years old. I was instructed to go immediately back into isolation (had to do that for six months after the stem cell transplant).
At that juncture, the world knew very little about the virus, but data was starting to be collected. I signed up to be notified of new studies that pertain to my risk factors by the CDC and the Cancer Care Alliance. It was months before data starting coming in. One of the first studies (retrospective, meaning chart review) from Asia found that of the patients admitted to a hospital with COVID and with my exact diagnoses, 44% died in the hospital. Via conjecture, it was suggested that an even higher percentage, maybe even 100% would die within six months, but they didn’t know that for sure. This was with the original novel coronavirus (19).
Once the vaccines were out, and I read all the vaccine studies, while showing the vaccines were profoundly safe, they also were finding that as many as 80% of those with stem cell transplants had virtually no benefit from the vaccine. I got a letter from my doctor telling me that even though I had the first series of Moderna vaccines, to consider myself unvaccinated. Then came the finding that people like me who got one booster, had a better immune response, and two boosters, had a response almost as good as healthy people, but it was still unpredictable. However, to be safe, my doctor still warned me to take great precautions and live like I was unvaccinated and no indoor groups.
I did take great precautions. I ALWAYS mask in indoor groups (brief shopping trips). Mostly, I became a hermit and wrote books and blogs like this. People who come to my house had to test upon arrival, including my kids. Afterall, I had promised my family that I would do everything in my power to stay alive.
The vast majority of our friends were very sensitive to the battle I was in. It was not made any easier by the fact that Denise was working with COVID patients during the day and coming home to me at night. Then there were those insecure people, only a handful, who wanted to prove that they were a great patriot, or a good Christian, or who knows what, by coming up to me , mask-less and intentionally coughing in my face. I wear a mask to protect them, so my mask does not do much to protect me from them. The wife of one of those people died from COVID a few days after our encounter and for that I feel very sad.
Yes, I did worry and should have. I’ve watched people die on a ventilator and it isn’t pretty. I’ve seen them struggle hour after hour (sedated or not) as if they are fighting for oxygen. I have such a long and hard battle to stay alive in the past three years, I took no chances.
My son Ramsey had to miss Christmas due to testing positive on a home antigen test on the 24th, with no symptoms. He is vaccinated and boosted. Then, weeks later, he and his girlfriend came to celebrate Christmas and he retested at my house. It was a positive. In his frustration, because he felt fine, I tested. Guess what, my test was also positive. But it couldn’t be, could it? Denial because I felt perfectly fine (not considering my default bad feeling from my cancer). I had no COVID symptoms, none. So, Ramsey and I considered the test was in error. Rash judgment as Denise tested negative from the same batch.
Guess what, my test was also positive. But it couldn’t be, could it?
But then I read the studies of that particular test two weeks later. While false negatives are a problem, the false positive rate was only .4%. So for every 200+ positive tests, only one is wrong. Then I heard a group of researchers discussing that test and their conclusion was that if it is positive, you can bank on the fact that the COVID virus has colonized your upper airway. Then a light bulb went off. We were positive, had COVID but asymptomatic.
I wasn’t surprised that Ramsey was asymptomatic as a very high number of the young and healthy are. However, I was expecting to have serious disease if I had COVID. I am thrilled with the notion that I probably (99.5% chance) had COVID with no symptoms … zilch. The most rational explanation is that my 2 base doses of Moderna plus two boosters have made a huge difference in my body’s ability to fight the infection. I can’t say that with absolute certainty and I’m a great believer in intellectual candor. There is a possibility that I would have had no symptoms with the omicron variety even if I weren’t vaccinated, but I doubt it.
The other real silver lining to this development is that there is also evidence that the greatest immunity is being fully vaccinated, boosted AND having had the infection. But don’t let down your guard to get infected, especially if you are not vaccinated and boosted.
Now that I’ve experienced COVID and not only lived but had no symptoms, plus I may have super immunity, will it change my behavior? I’m not sure … probably, but with caution. First of all, my conclusions are not 100% and if I get it wrong, a horrible death awaits me and I’ve fought so hard to get to this point. A lot at stake. Secondly, I’ve grown used to and rather enjoy the life of a hermit.
If you are not vaccinated, please get the jab. If you are vaccinated and haven’t had a booster, get the booster and reduce your risk of severe disease and death (over vaccination alone) by more than double.
I hope this story encourages you in this long battle. Let’s stop making it political. We will get through this, even if there are more to come. If you are not vaccinated, please get the jab. If you are vaccinated and haven’t had a booster, get the booster and reduce your risk of severe disease and death (over vaccination alone) by more than double. Vaccines don’t replace our immune system, they simply prepare it so it is ready to fight the infection when it comes. If the immune system starts from a dormant state, the infection can harm us before the immune system has time to gear up. “Immunity” simply means a prepared immune system.
Stay safe, live in peace.