LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS) – As the delta variant of COVID-19 increases across the country, hospitals in northern Colorado are among those who are at or near their capacity in their ICUs. And now, for the first time since being discharged from the ICU, one of Larimer County’s sickest patients shares his story in hopes of raising awareness of the virus among those who doubted its severity.
Tom Schneider, a Loveland, Colorado resident, admitted that he was among the most skeptical about the severity of COVID-19 and the safety of getting vaccinated. Schneider, 51, said he originally chose to forgo the vaccine until more research and development was completed.
“I didn’t know anyone who was in the hospital, I didn’t know anyone who had COVID side effects,” Schneider told KCNC-TV’s Dillon Thomas. “It wasn’t pro-vax, it wasn’t anti-vax. I was going to wait and see which one works best. “
But in early August, Schneider began to feel ill, as did her fiancé. He tried to fight his illness with over-the-counter medications. However, the symptoms continued to get worse. Finally, and reluctantly, he decided to go to the hospital. But when he arrived, the doctors told him that he needed to be admitted.
Schneider said he chose, against medical advice, to return home. He said he feared the decisions medical staff told him he would have to make if his symptoms progressed to a state where he was incapacitated.
He went home. And the next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital. “I felt fine one day and 24 hours later I was in the hospital, intubated for four weeks,” Schneider said.
Schneider had passed out at home. His fiancé found him, called 911, and transported him by ambulance to receive treatment at McKee Medical Center in Loveland. “I just crashed, no energy, I couldn’t breathe. Lethargic, ”explained Schneider. “I was not prepared to face that at all.”
Placed on a ventilator for a month, Schneider said he couldn’t help spending some of his waking moments reconsidering his decision not to get vaccinated. He said he believed the virus was real, but thought fighting it would be easier if he ever contracted it. “It is like a game of Monopoly. And I think a lot of people are playing from GET OUT to GET OUT OF JAIL, ”said Schneider. “I didn’t realize there were three other sides to this game. Being aired, long-term life effects and death. “
Locked in an ICU without the ability to fully see or communicate with loved ones, Schneider couldn’t help but compare his experience fighting COVID-19 to that of his fiancé. Schneider said her fiancé was ill for less than a week and was able to quickly return to work. Meanwhile, he lost his job and was caught fighting for his life in the hospital.
Schneider recalled his time helping the Army Corps build the overflowing hospital facilities on the grounds of the Larimer County Fair just a year earlier. He said he couldn’t help but think about how he once downplayed the severity of the virus.
“I look back and say, ‘You’re an idiot. You’re an idiot, ‘”Schneider said.
Thanks to the medical professionals at Banner Health and Columbine Health Systems, Schneider was able to get out of the hospital. Now they are taking care of him in a rehabilitation center near his home. He hopes to come home next week.
As a Christian, Schneider said he mistakenly believed that he could put God’s protection before the virus. However, in the end, he said that he realized that God’s protection came after contracting COVID-19.
“It was stupidity and arrogance on my part. I am a Christian, and one of the lessons I learned was that I expected God to appear and keep me from COVID. But God made me receive treatment in the hospital, ”said Schneider. “He had me there with people who needed to take care of me.”
He said he was grateful to both God and the medical professionals who helped him by giving him a second chance at life. Although he was once skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, Schneider said he now plans to get vaccinated once he is healthy enough to do so.
Looking back at his comparison of Monopoly and the battle with COVID-19, he hoped that sharing his story would encourage others to realize that the “game” is harder to play than they think. “Now that I have lived it, 75% of the game is harmful. I don’t like those odds, ”Schneider said. “You could get this and you could be dead tomorrow.”