A Florida Republican official has urged people to get vaccinated and wear masks after he got badly sick with COVID-19 last month and feared he “wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital alive.”
James Ring, president of the Republican Party of Lakeland, Florida, said he had grown complacent about remembering to wear a mask and hadn’t gotten around to getting vaccinated yet.
The former Lakeland Police sergeant and U.S. Army Reserve chief warrant officer, who was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, described himself in a Facebook post as a healthy 39-year-old with no pre-existing conditions. Because of that, he said, he had “always haphazardly assumed it wouldn’t be that bad if I caught the virus.”
Ring traveled to Orlando with his wife and three daughters on the weekend of June 19-20 for his daughters’ volleyball tournament, he told the Lakeland Ledger, and he began to feel achy by Thursday of that week. He tested negative for COVID-19 the next day.
After his symptoms continued to worsen over the weekend, he received a positive test result on Tuesday, June 29, he said.
On his tenth night fighting the virus, he was admitted to the emergency room at an area hospital, he wrote on Facebook. He was treated with an experimental anti-viral antibody cocktail and sent home, only to return again the following evening, he said.
“I was shaking uncontrollably, and my blood oxygen levels dropped dangerously low to 78. I couldn’t catch my breath and was certain I was dying,” he wrote.
“The ER physician immediately transferred me to the COVID unit where they determined both my lungs were full with COVID pneumonia. They also determined that the COVID virus had thickened my blood and made me susceptible to blood clots in my heart, lungs and legs, which could ultimately prove fatal. They gave me steroids for my lungs, a breathing treatment, shots in my stomach to thin my blood, and a cocktail of medications to fight the infection in my lungs and fever.”
Ring gave a harrowing account of his time in the COVID-19 unit as his health continued to deteriorate.
“The nights were filled with the sounds of people coughing uncontrollably and crying. Everyone was alone and desperate for help,” he wrote.
“I cried and cried as I began to accept that I probably wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital alive. Everyday had just been more bad news and my symptoms kept getting worse.”
He was eventually released and said Tuesday that while he still wasn’t out of the woods, he was at home recovering. He urged people to consider the consequences of their choices.
“I’m not anti-vax, but I’ve never taken the time to get the vaccine. I’m not anti-mask, but I’m not very good about remembering to wear one. Needless to say, I contracted the virus and unknowingly passed it to some of the people I love the most,” he said. He didn’t share who he had passed the disease on to.
Ring shared the story to remind people “this pandemic is not over,” he continued.
“Please take it seriously and remember to wear a mask. Even if you think they’re silly, it’s better than sitting all alone in a COVID unit wishing you had.”
Experts have implored people to get immunized to protect themselves and others as the spread of the delta variant has led to an uptick of COVID-19 cases in Florida over the past few weeks. The vaccination rate has slowed, prompting health officials to remind people that the large majority of new cases now are among unvaccinated people.