Four days before testing positive for COVID-19, Bill Jones walked half a mile to his deer stand, shot a deer and hauled the carcass back to his vehicle himself. “No problem,” the 59-year-old Taylorville man said.
In the days that followed, Jones developed symptoms of what he thought was bronchitis – shortness of breath, a cough, pressure in his chest like a cold might be developing there. A visit to his doctor’s office confirmed COVID-19 and effectively canceled Jones’ plans to spend Thanksgiving Day with his family.
“On November 24, it all went downhill,” said Jones.
To treat symptoms that were becoming progressively worse – most alarming was his difficulty breathing – Jones spent 10 days at Taylorville Memorial Hospital. Jones’ wife, Lynn Yard, also tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted at the same time as her husband to Taylorville Memorial Hospital before being transferred to Decatur Memorial Hospital. She has since fully recovered.
It has been nearly five months since Jones tested positive for COVID-19. In that time, he has been hospitalized twice with serious problems related to lung function. He currently participates in twice-weekly pulmonary rehab respiratory therapy sessions and is unable to return to his job of more than 20 years with the city of Taylorville streets and sewer department. Jones relies on oxygen therapy treatments to perform simple physical tasks.
“Right now, because of COVID, I’m essentially living on one lung,” he said. “I can walk about 20 feet before [his oxygen levels drop dangerously low].”
As he continues to fight for his own personal return to normal, Jones is vocal about encouraging everyone he knows to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Jones and his wife received the vaccine in March.
“I was eager to get it,” he said. “As soon as they called my name, I popped right up, like, ‘Let’s go!’ If getting vaccinated is going to help us [return to normal], everyone’s got to do it.”
As the supply of COVID-19 vaccines ramps up, government and health experts expect the next obstacle to achieving herd immunity will be persuading more people to get vaccinated. Vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19; however, the risk of becoming infected is significantly lower. In addition, if a vaccinated person does contract COVID-19, symptoms tend to be mild.
Jones said he has convinced several family members who were hesitant to get vaccinated. He hopes, by sharing his story, to influence more people in the community to seek the vaccine, which has become available locally to anyone over the age of 16.
In short, Jones said, he would not want anyone to go through the illness and lingering effects of COVID-19 he has suffered.
“COVID not only affected my health, it’s affected my quality of life, my livelihood and my pocketbook,” said Jones. “It’s serious, and people need to realize that.”