OPINION  — Anyone who knows me, knows that I have been an advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine from the moment it was available. I know that I tend to be an early adaptor. Always have been. Probably always will be. When I am afraid of something, I immerse myself in the topic. The more I learn about it, the less afraid I am of it. When it comes to COVID-19 I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of listening and a lot of talking to medical professionals, and scientific researchers. People I greatly respect. So when it came time to vaccinate, it was a pretty straight-forward solid decision for me to make. And it was for my husband and our two adult children.

At the same time, I have understood (or at least I have tried to understand) what would make someone hesitate or even refuse to get the vaccine. My goal was to find the missing information they specifically needed to then feel comfortable about their decision, and then go get the shot. At times I think some of us have been on information overload, and that is what paralyzes us from getting the shot. I also fully understand those people that don’t think the government should mandate what you do with your own body, I certainly fall into that category. And the skepticism and even mistrust of big government and big corporations.

But now with the Delta variant sweeping through our nation, and filling our hospitals to capacity, we are seeing way too many people truly suffering, and dying.

Most recently, the daughter of a long-time friend of mine is really being hit hard by this damn virus. She is a Spearfish native, and her name is Brooke Eixenberger. She decided to post what she is going through on her social media page, hoping to convince anyone to not go down the anti-vaccination path she did and is now paying for. Reading it was a gut-punch. It was so powerful, that I asked for her permission to share it, and I suggested that her step-dad Bill Masterson, a long-time friend of mine and the president & publisher of the Rapid City Journal, also publish it. She very bravely and graciously said yes to both of us. So I will now step-aside and let Brooke tell you about her experience in her own words on September 2, 2021:

“I’m not posting this to get into a social media bash on FB. I want people to be able to make their own judgements as I had regarding the vaccine. I chose not to get it. There are many reasons but that was my choice. It wasn’t a “my freedom” reason either. On August 26th I tested positive for COVID-19. First, I want to tell you that the person I was with (whom was vaccinated) also tested positive. While the vaccine does not prevent Covid, it 100% gives you a different outcome. Here are my symptoms: I lost all smell immediately. It was as if I just woke up and it was gone. It’s hard to stay awake. I have coughing attacks that make me feel like I’m going to stop breathing altogether. When it’s over I’m so nauseous I can barely open my eyes. The back of my head feels like a nail is being jammed into it. I have severe inflammation of the lungs and now have Pneumonia. I have been in & out the ER-Only going home because there are no rooms available here in the state of Oklahoma. Nor are there rooms in the state of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. I have not left my bed or even had the energy to turn on my TV. The chills and sweats along with body aches (I had 2 back fusions this year so that pain is basically attacking those areas as well) fever, runny nose etc. are constant. I take short gasps of air to try and not choke. I cannot breathe. Let me repeat that. I cannot breathe. It’s the toughest struggle I’ve had yet. I can’t take a breath in as it hurts like someone is choking you to death. I was told I could have the antibody infusion yesterday…waited all day for that and was just denied for that as well. I don’t have any answers and they don’t give you any. Steroids, inhalers & Tylenol. I feel helpless. The worst part is Covid forces you to do this alone. When all you want is someone-you can only touch their hand through the glass. My Super Mom drove here to only be closer to me. It’s so hard not being able to be in her arms…all I want is my Mommy at 42.

I urge you. This new Delta variant is so harmful. Every person on my FB I know personally and with tears rolling down my cheeks I hope you listen to my pain and please hear me out. I was not wanting the vaccine and now am in a situation I could have avoided had I just listened to medical professionals. Please take politics out (or whatever is holding you back) and know that had I been vaccinated I can tell you, without a doubt, things would be different for me. And for those of you that are vaccinated-this isn’t a haha moment. Encourage people. Please don’t argue and get into a debate. I am speaking from my heart when I say I would not want anyone to be where I am today. People are dying daily and with the inattention I’m receiving I can understand why. Please do your best to wear a mask either way and practice what we were told a year ago. This isn’t going away it’s getting worse. I pray for you, your families and friends. XOXO”

My final thoughts. My mother always told me to “Be sure when you look in the mirror, you like the person looking back at you.” Well I can not do that if I don’t make one more attempt to try to convince at least one more person of how critical this is to do. The vaccine is a miracle. It is a gift from above. Go get the shot.

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