BONOKOSKI: Alberta man urges others to ‘get the damn shot’ after barely surviving COVID

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“We weren’t thinking of others.”

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— Bernie Cook, unvaccinated Alberta man

Bernie Cook, unvaccinated, ended up in the ICU — on a ventilator for almost a week — after coming down with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

He wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

As he admitted to Global News Calgary, “We’re clogging up the Alberta Health System (AHS). We’re clogging it up.”

“I think that if people saw that side of AHS, of how overwhelmed they were, I think they really would change their mind about getting the vaccine,” Cook said of the unvaccinated.

He wasn’t totally against vaccines. He just thought he didn’t need it, being 46 and strong.

“I’m (was) kind of anti-vax,” Cook said. “I procrastinated, and it nearly cost me my life.”

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While fighting the disease, he lost 30 pounds, shed muscle mass, and now finds simple tasks, like climbing the stairs, difficult.

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And the ventilator, as he recalled, was no picnic.

“I had to be a part of the process and literally my body convulsed from having the tubes taken out of my stomach and lungs. I did not enjoy that experience at all. It was a physical trauma to have that,” he said.

“I’m like … holy frick, how much more am I going to take here?”

According to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, of the people admitted to Alberta’s ICUs with COVID-19 between June 1 and Sept. 23, 88% were unvaccinated, while 6% had one dose. Six per cent of ICU admissions were fully vaccinated.

As of last Monday, 83% of eligible Albertans over the age of 12 had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 74% were fully vaccinated.

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On the political side, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been reaping hell over his handling of the COVID-19 crisis as the virus runs rampant throughout the province.

Kenney rejected calls for a “hard lockdown” during an appearance on a radio program last Sunday — the same day his province’s former top doctor signed a letter calling for immediate “firebreak” measures to deal with surging cases of COVID-19.

Kenney told radio host Roy Green a lockdown would make “no sense for the 80% of the population that is vaccinated,” who he said are much less likely to transmit the disease and are far less likely to be hospitalized.

He also said the roughly 20% who aren’t vaccinated and are behind the surge in cases are less likely to follow public health measures.

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The number of Albertans receiving care for COVID-19 in ICUs rose to a record level, according to last Friday’s data update, which saw the province add 5,181 cases over the weekend.

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It was the eleventh time in September alone that a new record high has been set for the province’s ICU patient count — patients like Bernie Cook, for example, who said “nearly dying was quite an experience.”

A recent tweet by Dr. Hinshaw laid out the reality in Alberta.

“Here is a summary of the latest COVID-19 numbers,” she posted. “There are now 1,063 people in hospital due to COVID-19. Of the 798 non-ICU, 75.5% are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Of the 265 in ICU, 91.7% are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.”

“If people saw that side of what I saw, that would make a difference,” said Cook. “They would realize that there’s a lot of selfishness in, you know, you’re taking my rights away.”

The night before his release, Cook received his first dose of the vaccine.

“Just get the damn shot,” he exclaimed.

markbonokoski@gmail.com

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