Why is Being Vaccinated Against Covid Important to You?

Guest post by Bronwen Morris Green, written in support of the Industry Vaccination Campaign.

Last week, we asked for your thoughts and real life stories of what you’ve experienced with covid in your life or in the industry, and why the vaccine is so important to you in your life.

Bronwen Morris Green is a Senior Hairstylist, Lecturer and Examiner in Johannesburg. Her husband Jason Green died of covid pneumonia with cardiac involvement on 28/11/2020.

This is her story.

"My husband Jason Green was a prominent freelance bass player, music educator, national and international Examiner. He contracted Covid while working in the Eastern Cape from people who did not believe in wearing masks in November 2020. He gave it to me. We experienced the Beta variant.

We were the first people we knew personally who had contracted Covid. We were never scared and worried more about the financial implications - me as a commission earner and him as a freelance musician. But we accepted that we were positive and decided to just get through it together. He suffered with stomach issues and fever. I suffered with sinus and extreme fatigue. We barely ate and could not focus on the TV. My sister delivered food and medicine to us. No one ever insisted we get an oximeter. It was the early phase of the Beta variant and being young and healthy, we assumed we would make it through with no problems.

On Jason's Day 12, a friend randomly dropped off soup and an oximeter. I put it on my finger - oxygen saturation 95%. Jason's was 62% and asked me what that meant. I didn't know and told him to Google it while I got some medicine, vitamins and a protein bar for him to try to eat. He looked up and asked me to phone my two doctor clients and ask if we should call an ambulance. I was told yes and pack a bag. He was never blue, he never struggled to breathe, he was fatigued but we didn't realize it was from lack of oxygen. He was actually already hypoxic and Covid doesn't let your body know how serious the situation is.

The ambulance took him to Busamed hospital in Modderfontein. I was glad he was close to home. He assumed he would go in for a bit of oxygen and be home later. He asked me to find oxygen for home. He hated doctors and hospitals and didn't like taking the bag I had packed for him. Two hours later he texted me a picture of him on oxygen. I called. It was the first time he sounded out of breath. The last words we exchanged on that call was " Bye bye baby, I love you". I was so fatigued and sick, I even napped that afternoon assuming he would come right with getting treatment in hospital.

Four hours later my texts were still unread and I called the hospital. Jason had been put on the Non-invasive Oxygen Mask and had fought it a bit.... it's very unpleasant having oxygen blown into your face and the mask being strapped to your head like an octopus. They said they had mildly sedated him and I thought a good night of rest and medication would do the trick. I expected him to phone me grumpy in the morning moaning that they would keep him longer.

Three hours later the Doctor called to say they were struggling to get his oxygen above 74%. There was a chance they would have to ventilate and he was still sedated. I was worried but hoped all interventions would work. At 1am, a lovely nurse called to say they had to fully sedate him and intubate for a ventilator. He had a 50/50 chance of surviving. I was home alone, sick with Covid and now extremely worried and panicked.

As soon as they tried to intubate , he had a massive heart attack. They worked on him for over an hour.

The same sweet nurse called at 4am and said, "Are you alone?". I said, " Yes, Tessa, you know I'm positive". She said, "Are you sitting down?" and very softly said "He's gone". He died at 2:47am Saturday 28 November 2020.

I just could not believe it. I kept asking her if she was talking about the tall bald man. I phoned the hospital back twice to check if they had the right person. I called my sister, my father, Jason's two best friends, his sister. I was numb saying " Jason's passed away" while people shrieked and cried. He was in hospital for a total of 17 hours. He was 45 years old with no co-morbidities and was actually in the best shape of HIS life. We never had a cough or sore throats or tight chests or battled to breathe during the week. I couldn't make sense of it.

The Doctor called and I begged her to allow me to come see him and say goodbye since I was positive. I was lucky it wasn't during the second wave. She said yes but I had to drive myself. My sister and Jason's friend drove behind me and waited in the parking lot. I eventually got hold of his sister and asked her to give the awful news to his mother. He was her last baby. I had to see him to understand he was dead. I would never accept it otherwise. I am very grateful I was able to see him and say goodbye.

The Doctor kindly explained everything to me, how earlier interventions would only have left him disabled and told me how to take care of myself should I get worse. It had only been 4 hours but he was already cold, blue ears, nails and feet. There was a cut on his lip, I assumed where they had struggled to intubate him. There was a bruise on his nose from the oxygen mask.

I called his mother, his best friend in England to say goodbye to him. I played him voicenotes and relayed messages from my sister, his sister, his friend downstairs. I was very aware of the fact that I was standing there alone and our family and friends should have been there with me. My father had organized the undertaker and when they arrived with plastic bags, it was time to go. I'm so grateful for the 45 minutes I got to spend with him, holding his hand, kissing his face and thanking him for being the wonderful husband he was.

The hospital overlooks Modderfontein Nature Reserve where he had proposed to me. We were together for 7 years and married for 4 years. I had waited for the right man for me. We had a beautiful relationship. We communicated well, understood that our careers were intricately woven into our DNA and gave each other space to follow our dreams. We made decisions based on what was good for "The House" as we called it. What was good for both of us. We loved our chaotic schedules and the interesting people we worked with daily.

Jason had a hilarious sense of humour and loved to make me laugh. We played pranks on each other because we didn't always get to spend every single night and weekend together. I've been in the industry for 25 years, worked on cruise ships as soon as I qualified. He encouraged me to diversify and 19 years into my career and I found my second love.... education. With his support and care, I earned my Assessor, Facilitator, Moderator, Coach & Mentor certificates and began freelance examining and lecturing at various colleges in Johannesburg and Pretoria while still servicing clients at the salon.

We spent the first 3 months of lockdown together at home and it felt like a second honeymoon. We had so much fun together. But soon finances became difficult and we started to cut our budget drastically and he sold two thirds of his gear and 5000 strong CD collection. My UIF was slow to pay out and a fifth of my typical salary. He had zero government support and ended up not working for 9 months due to the country's lockdown levels. We kept tightening and tightening the budget as our savings dwindled. The second job he was able to do he got infected.

He died on my Day 8 which meant I had to go a full week without anyone's help or family touching me. People came and had to sit outside my house while I lay or sat inside crying. My sister had to tell me what to write on forms because I could barely read from shock, brain fog and swollen eyes. I struggled with high heart rate and painful racing heart at night for 6 months. I saw a Cardiologist who admitted me into hospital for tests. I cried for 3 days straight in hospital. I am grateful that they found no permanent damage. A referral to a psychiatrist confirmed I have Covid Induced Anxiety Disorder and Long Covid. I still struggle with fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, food and drink not tasting as they should intermittently and can barely string a sentence together after 9pm at night.

The correct medication has helped a lot and I do my best every day to do what needs to be done. It's very tough. The person you need the most to help you through this is not there.

Had we been vaccinated we would not have suffered so much trauma and Jason would not have paid the ultimate price.

I do believe that as our industry expects us to be close and communicate with strangers and regular clients face to face, we should be vaccinated, so no one else has to experience the hell I have been living through while putting on the work face. I have been fully vaccinated and I am so grateful for this level of safety, for our families who have been rocked by Jason's passing, for our friends who still miss him, for my peace of mind that I will not have to have such a severe Covid experience again should I contract a different variant.

My entire family and all our close friends have been vaccinated understanding the severity of the virus and I encourage all to get vaccinated. "

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We’ve asked some of our top professionals in the industry to share their thoughts with us and each week we’ll be sharing their stories for you to enjoy. If you have a positive experience you’d like to share with us on the vaccine and the differences it’s made in your personal life or your salon and with your clients’ appreciation of their salon experiences, please send to Beth at beth@hairnews.co.za, with a photo you’d like us to use!

Industry Vaccination: Safety, Sustainability and A Return to Normality

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