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Family raises awareness about the Delta variant

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 07:14:09-04

TULSA, Okla. — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in the state due to the Delta variant, the family of an immunocompromised man is speaking out after he contracted the COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

For the past year and a half, Valerie McKinnis has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

“I’ve sat with families, I’ve watched patients be alone, watch people die without their families present and knowing the heartbreak of that and always been you know very emotionally connected to my patients but its nothing like when it’s your own parent…it becomes real in a very different way,” Valerie McKinnis, who is a hospitalist physician said.

She has seen firsthand the difficult side of COVID-19. Her medical background helps her care for patients, and now her own father who has rheumatoid arthritis.

“To be able to do the things that he normally likes to do and still work, he depends on medications that actually suppress his body’s immune response to treat his rheumatoid arthritis,” she said.

She said immune-suppressed people like him are at high risk of the severe complications of COVID-19 and their risk of death is much higher. Therefore, he was among the first wave of Oklahomans to get vaccinated who were not healthcare workers.

“My dad’s hope with getting vaccinated is that he could go back to somewhat of a normal life, he could go to church, he could be involved with things in the community that he cared about and that he would hopefully not contract or die from COVID-19, especially being an older individual at 75 with a high-risk medical condition and high-risk medications,” McKinnis said.

McKinnis said her dad was at a church meeting just a few weeks ago, where he was in contact with an individual who had later tested positive for COVID-19 but had not been vaccinated.

“Within a couple of days my dad came down with fevers and coughing and eventually tested positive for COVID,” she said.

Her father was admitted to the hospital with severe COVID-19 pneumonia and was there for about a week before he was discharged.

“Had he not been vaccinated; I don’t believe he would have had any chance to be with us here today,” McKinnis said.

He seemed to be getting better, but he’s not quite out of the woods yet. This past weekend he got short of breath and was readmitted to the hospital.

“He had actually developed a collapsed lung, so what can happen with real severe pneumonia and all the inflammation in the lung and all of the coughing you can actually basically get a hole in your lung and have all that lung content and the air escape and cause a collapse of the lung,” McKinnis said.

The treatments that he has received this week allowed them to discharge him today.

His daughter, McKinnis, is now warning others about the seriousness of the Delta variant, especially for immunocompromised individuals.

“If you have been fully vaccinated and you’re part of an immunocompromised group of people, so people for instance with active cancers, on chemotherapy, immunologic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus and you may have been fully vaccinated, you really need to take extra precautions because as you’re walking around the world you cannot identify especially with the lifting of mask mandate, who else in your community is vaccinated,” she said.

McKinnis recommends getting vaccinated if you haven’t already. She said this helps reduce the viral spread, which in turn helps people like her father, whose immunity is compromised.

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