AAC woman was not vaccinated against COVID-19. After 6 months in the hospital, her outlook changed - Market News
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AAC woman was not vaccinated against COVID-19. After 6 months in the hospital, her outlook changed

AAC woman was not vaccinated against COVID-19.  After 6 months in the hospital, her outlook changed

Wynter Ho thought it was the flu at first. Her head was throbbing and she was having trouble breathing.

The 26-year-old struggled to walk up and down the stairs of her mansion. She had grown up with asthma, but it never felt so bad.

It wasn’t until her mother told her that a family friend she was visiting had contracted COVID-19 that Ho realized she might have been infected, too. Ho was not vaccinated and spent the entire weekend with her mother. A trip to a local test site later that day confirmed her suspicion.

“In the beauty industry, we’re in close contact with customers, so I was extra careful,” says Ho, who owns a beauty salon in Huntington Beach. “I had been careful with my clients and I had a whole schedule full of all my clients and I remember being very disappointed that I had to message everyone and let them know [I was ill] and cancel.”

The positive result would put her out of work for months, starting in July, as she battled for survival at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.

Ho is among a group of young adults who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 because of concerns about the potential for long-term effects, as well as mixed messages on the Internet and among friends and family. A study 2021 found that a quarter of unvaccinated young adults in the United States are unlikely to get the shot because of similar concerns.

For the past year, Orange County public health officials have been urging everyone to get vaccinated and encouraged as they qualify. By Thursday afternoon, more than 2.3 million OC residents had been fully vaccinated and more than 975,000 had received their booster, data from the OC Health Care Agency shows. With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, young adults ages 19 to 44 are causing COVID infections in the province.

The easiest way to minimize strain on the health care system is to get vaccinated, boost and follow public health measures, said Dr. Hoang Le, Ho’s Pulmonologist at Fountain Valley Regional Medical.

“We see that when you have a full boost, getting severe COVID or hospitalization is much lower,” Le said. “It doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work. It does work – we need to get everyone vaccinated and boosted according to the science.”

Now Ho is slowly recovering in the comfort of her mother’s Garden Grove home. She visited her beauty salon and is looking forward to working with her clients and returning to her normal life.

Yet the discouraging experience does not escape her. She describes her “nervousness” when she was first moved from room to room at Fountain Valley Hospital.

“I was pretty miserable,” she said. Her family tried to cheer her up by dropping off her favorite foods and treats like Otter Pops, Mangoes, Coconut Juice, and Fruit Gushers.

Ho had “quite significant pneumonia” on both sides of her lungs, and her oxygen level was “quite low” when she was first admitted, said Le, who served as her lung consultant. She was given oxygen support and other therapies commonly given to patients with COVID pneumonia, but Le said she was not responding well.

“After a week she got to the point where she had to be on a ventilator or she wouldn’t have made it at all, period,” Le said.

Ho was terrified at the doctor’s advice. She said she initially rejected the idea until her mother and aunt convinced her, as it might be the only way to help her survive. By this time, her family, including her father who had flown in from Oklahoma, met at the hospital to see her, worried it might be the last time they could visit each other before she died.

While sedated, she said she dreamed of her family and vaguely remembers hearing their voices when they visited her.

Ho said she regained full consciousness in October.

“I was depressed and crying and confused every day,” she said. “I knew I was in the hospital, but I didn’t know the time had passed until October.”

Ho then embarked on her journey to recovery. She downloaded the Speech to Text app to help her communicate as she slowly re-learned how to speak and move her body.

She used the iPad mounted on her hospital table to keep in touch with her family and get a glimpse of the outside world. Sometimes her aunt would face-time with her as she drove around. Ho virtually celebrated Christmas with her.

Each milestone came with support from her medical staff.

“No one has done this,” Le said. “This is the whole team. The nursing staff at the ICU tried their best and helped her. [Ho] really inspired us how hard she worked and wanted to improve.”

After fighting to survive, Ho is grateful to her second chance at life. She was greeted with applause and balloons from staff and family as she was wheeled out of the hospital.

Ho said she was the first to be vaccinated after that. Now she is urging her community, especially young adults, to do the same.

“Get vaccinated, even if you feel like you’re not going outside too much,” she said. “You never know. Better safe than sorry.”

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