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‘This ain’t no joke’: Unvaccinated Puna man urges others to take COVID seriously

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 10:27 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 10:43 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Frederick Tibayan was on the fence about getting vaccinated against COVID because he was concerned about side effects.

The 45 year-old Puna man was close to deciding to get a shot when the virus hit him and his family.

“I felt sick Sunday, getting fevers Sunday, Monday, Tuesday,” said Tibayan. “Tuesday through Wednesday, I couldn’t sleep. I started coughing up blood. And Wednesday morning, I decided to drive myself here.”

He made that recollection at the Hilo Medical Center, where he was hospitalized for 49 days for COVID.

Tibayan said he and his oldest son both went into urgent care and both tested positive. Meanwhile, COVID ran through nearly their entire family.

“I actually infected six out of seven of my family members,” he said. “I infected my wife, our four youngest children.”

None of them were vaccinated.

It’s something Hilo Medical Center is seeing more often.

“We’re seeing whole family units come in at one time and even being hospitalized all together, of course in separate rooms, but yeah, we’re seeing a lot of spread through the community,” said Caitee McAllister, a registered nurse at the Hilo Medical Center’s progressive care unit.

Tibayan’s stay in the hospital included 20 days in the Intensive Care Unit. He lost 57 pounds and suffered serious damage to his lungs.

“This thing took me to death’s door,” he said. “I was looking in the window, ready for walk in. That’s how bad it was. This was no joke.”

Medical experts said the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading quickly among the unvaccinated.

“You can be exposed for 30 seconds to someone’s respiratory droplets and become infected. It’s no longer 15 minutes and six feet,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group. “We’re seeing with a family, you just get in a household, you can get infected.”

Tibayan is now urging others to get the vaccine, including a cousin who had been reluctant to get one until she heard his story.

“Just the other day she texted me and said, ‘Hey, I just went go get one vaccine, I took the kids,’ and I said, ‘Hey, right on.’”

Tibayan is going home with an oxygen tank — and a message.

“Do something,” he said. “No just think like how I used to think, like, ah, this is fake, this is propaganda, this is stuff. I tell you this ain’t no joke.”

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