Dad, 33, has different perspective on COVID-19 after near-death experience

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Jesse Walsh, 33, nearly died from COVID-19 and is determined to make a positive impact on others after his experience.

“I was scared,” said Walsh, a husband and father. “I felt kind of silly for not taking more precautions. For not getting vaccinated, because I really put my entire family at risk.”

Walsh tested positive for COVID-19 on July 10 shortly after he noticed the first few symptoms, including fever and body aches. His health declined over the next few days.

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“Despite what I did in outpatient, he kept getting worse,” said Dr. Will Conner, who treated Walsh. “You could see the fear in his eyes. You could see the anxiety. And next thing I know, he’s been admitted to the hospital.”

Walsh struggled to breathe.

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Conner said that Walsh’s oxygen intake reached 14 liters, which is far beyond what the doctor had ever seen.

“Usually one or two liters,” Conner said. “And that’s someone who basically has severe COPD or emphysema.”

Conner shared Walsh’s story in an email with dozens of patients to urge them to get vaccinated. Walsh already made up his mind.

“After 21 days of not being able to hug my kids, my wife or anybody,” Walsh said. “And then when I told my daughter on the 21st day that I was cleared from quarantine and she could finally hug me, she literally broke down crying immediately and ran to hug me immediately.”

Walsh said he now has a different perspective on COVID-19.

“My wife is getting vaccinated, and I will be getting vaccinated as soon as I can,” he said.

Conner said getting vaccinated is not something to wait on.

“So many times, my patients who are not vaccinated tell me, ‘I’m not there yet. I’m looking at the data,’” Conner said. “When they’re there, they may be in the ICU, and that’s too late.”

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