Overland Park Army Reservist pushes for COVID-19 vaccines after ICU stay

He says he wasn't vaccinated before infection
St Lukes COVID Unit
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 06:58:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Michael Jones was a healthy, 28-year-old veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves with no preexisting conditions. But now he's at home, recovering from COVID-19 after being admitted to a Saint Luke's Health System intensive-care unit.

The Overland Park resident had been enjoying his summer, which included fun weekend plans earlier this month.

"It was just a Saturday night, me and my friends, having a few drinks, going to a bar or club," said Jones, who served in the Reserves from January 2012 to January 2018. "We went to a couple different spots. And then I think that’s definitely the night I got it."

Jones hadn't been vaccinated before he got sick, and his symptoms took a turn within days.

"The fever got worse, that was really what dictated the whole downfall," he said.

His fever wouldn’t fall below 100 degrees, and then his mother, Patricia King, said he got worse.

"I looked down and his lips were blue," King said. "I brought him up to the hospital here as fast as I could because I knew something wasn't right."

Jones was admitted to Saint Luke’s on the Plaza, where staff immediately took images of his lungs.

"Michael’s CT scan shows us typical significant COVID pneumonia," Dr. Andrew Schlachter, a Saint Luke's pulmonologist who walked KSHB 41 News' camera crew through Jones' scans.

"Any area of white that you see, all of this is abnormal," Schlachter said. "Our lungs should look kind of like this area."

Clear lungs appear black on regular imaging, but Jones' were filled with white areas, indicating inflammation and the aforementioned COVID-19-induced pneumonia.

"Completely abnormal," Schlachter said of the 28-year-old's tests. "And if this is what can happen to young, 28-year-old healthy lungs, imagine unhealthy, 65-year-old lungs when they get this disease."

Jones' ICU stay lasted four days.

"I was pretty scared when I got on oxygen," he said.

And it was scary for his mother, too.

"I was leaving the hospital, and I was leaving my son who was so sick in somebody else's hand, and I did not know when I woke up the next day, if he would still be around," King said.

Jones recently returned home, but he’s still recovering and unable to work.

"I try to walk as much as I can around the house because my lungs still aren’t 100%," he said.

Schlachter said Jones is lucky.

"He's no longer on oxygen and there are too many young patients, his age and in his health, who we are not giving the same message to their families," Schlachter said.

Those families' loved ones are overwhelming Schlachter and his colleagues, as more than 180 COVID-19 patients currently are admitted across the Saint Luke's Health System. An overwhelming majority of hospitalized patients aren't vaccinated, according to the hospital.

"COVID is not just here, but it is overwhelmingly here," Schlachter said. "We’re getting tired. We're getting overrun, and we don't need to have these numbers."

As the hospital confronts the current surge, Jones confronts, what could have been, expressing regret.

"I was just thinking if I just listened to my mom, and got the vaccine, that I wouldn't be in this bed probably," he said.

He and his mother are now changing minds, and hope to change more.

"My sister has had six friends since then get the vaccine," King said. "My boyfriend asked me to please sign him up for the vaccine because he was scared seeing what my son was going through."

And Jones?

"I’d say get vaccinated, for sure," he said.