‘I should’ve listened to my wife’: Man changes his mind on vaccine after surviving COVID

Heather and Jake Sharek both recently had COVID-19. Heather was vaccinated, Jake was not. A long hospital stay with his severe symptoms compared to her few days
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 1:28 PM EDT
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EAGLE RIVER, Alaska (KTUU/Gray News) - An Alaska man reassessed his feelings on the vaccine after thinking he wouldn’t leave the hospital alive due to COVID-19.

It was in late August when Jake Sharek said he started to feel bad, KTUU reported.

“You know, normal flu symptoms,” he said. “But then when I started having the breathing problems is when I kind of figured something’s not right here.”

His symptoms worsened, and his wife, Heather Sharek, brought him to a crowded emergency room at Alaska Regional Hospital. He stayed there for almost 10 days before getting transferred to the ICU.

“They kind of walked me through what they were going to be doing, and the next thing I know I was out,” Jake Sharek said.

With his oxygen levels dropping, he was put on a ventilator and medications. Jake Sharek said he was in the ICU for 17 days like that.

He doesn’t recall much from that time but thought he was going to die, he said.

“The first time I talked to him, he didn’t recognize who I was,” Heather Sharek said.

“What I do remember is just looking at my arms, and not being able to move my legs and not being able to talk,” Jake Sharek said.

Heather Sharek said she’s a medical assistant and endoscopy technician. When the vaccines started to roll out, she asked doctors where she works about them.

She said they gave her information about what they were, how they were produced, and she made the choice to get vaccinated.

Heather Sharek told her husband about it, saying he wasn’t too happy at the time.

“He was a little bit upset with me for having gone and got it,” she said, “I said, ‘This is something you should consider, because you don’t want to get sick.’ He’s like, ‘Aw I’m not gonna get sick. I don’t know anybody who’s got it. It’s gonna be fine.’”

He wanted nothing to do with the shots up until he went to the hospital with COVID.

Since it is such a transmissible virus, Heather Sharek ended up getting it too, even though she was vaccinated. Her COVID story went much differently.

“I did not have a fever, I had body aches, I was incredibly tired,” she said. “I could barely make it from the bed to the couch, and that’s pretty much where I stayed for three days. ... Three or four days in, I had a little bit of a cough and a stuffy nose, but that was it. It really wasn’t that bad for me.”

It’s been a few weeks since Jake Sharek got out of the ICU. He said it’s still hard to talk and move. Right now he’s going to physical therapy two or three times a week to build up his strength.

Heather Sharek said her husband lost over 40 pounds while in the hospital.

After he started getting better, he said one of the first things he remembered is what he told his wife about the vaccine.

“Remembering that, ‘Jeez, my wife was hounding me about getting me a vaccine,’” Jake Sharek said. “You know, she went and got her vaccine, and I told her, ‘No, I’m not getting no vaccine, it’s just some, you know, political deal. Who knows what the government is putting in my arm.’ ‘Blah blah blah’ type stuff. And now that I look back on it I’m like, ‘Jeez, I should’ve listened to my wife and went and got the vaccine.’”

He now has plans to get vaccinated and said he’ll be getting the flu shot at the same time.

Now that he’s on the upswing, Sharek said he doesn’t want others to go through the same thing he did. He said people should stop trusting social media and people who aren’t experts as much, learn about the vaccine from health care professionals and consider taking the shot to avoid a story like his or one that ends in a worse way.

“You need to go talk to your doctor,” he said. “Talk to your physician and find out what he recommends, because those are the guys that are on the front line, or women that are on the front line. And they see what’s going on every day, and they know what’s working.”

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