Unvaccinated Man Whose 7 Children Caught COVID Urges People to Get the Shot

An unvaccinated man who almost died from COVID-19 has urged people who haven't done so already to get the shot.

Ben Anderson, 42 from Cameron, Missouri, began feeling sick toward the end of June and was subsequently hospitalized with COVID, eventually ending up in intensive care, The Kansas City Star reported.

At one point, around six weeks ago, the intensive care team called his wife to discuss removing him from the ventilator that had been keeping him going for more than 20 days as he lay unconscious.

"As a practitioner of Brazilian Jujitsu, one thing that we focus on a lot is defending against someone who is trying to submit us with a choke," Anderson, who described himself as a man of faith, said in a video message from his hospital bed.

"So I feel like I'm pretty good at defending the choke, but this COVID was beyond my ability to defend and brought me down. And without miracles, and the help of nurses and doctors, my wife, I would have had to submit."

"I wasn't sitting around on oxygen and got sick and almost died. I was healthy and active and this just came on me and brought me to my knees in ways that we didn't expect," he said. "I would admonish anyone who is considering or on the fence about whether to get the vaccine or whether they should wear a mask, that they should do it, if not for themselves, for those around them."

Anderson wasn't necessarily opposed to getting vaccinated, but said in an interview with the Star that he had "just never had time" to get a shot due to his busy job as a software product manager.

The 42-year-old said he was aware before he got sick that hundreds of thousands of people had died from COVID-19 in the United States but thought he was too tough to become one of them.

But after attending a gathering in Chillicothe, Missouri on June 27, Anderson began feeling sick, with symptoms including a persistent cough and feeling "in a fog."

Anderson said he isolated himself in his room and stayed there for two weeks. All of his seven children who were living at home—aged between three and 18—also caught COVID-19. The only family member at home who did not become sick was his wife, the only one who had previously been vaccinated.

The man's condition continued to deteriorate until at one point, his wife, found him sitting on the shower floor, unable to stand.

"I never got better. I just kept getting worse," Anderson said.

His wife rushed him to Cameron Regional Medical Center, where doctors said they could do nothing more to help him. Fortunately for Anderson, an ICU bed opened up that night at Research Medical Center in Kansas City and he was transferred there.

ICUs in the area have been running at near full capacity for weeks, with Missouri experiencing a wave of infections fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

"These nurses, doctors, are overwhelmed. They are doing the best they can but the emergency rooms are so busy with COVID patients they can't even stop to clean up the vomit from one patient before they get a code blue and have to run because someone is dying," Anderson said from his ICU at Research, where 95 percent of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

"They are not showing us that on the nightly news. People don't get it. This is not the sniffles."

Anderson said he understood that not getting vaccinated put his family at risk, noting that it was frustrating that mask-wearing and vaccination had become so politicized.

"I can make a statement about my unwillingness to conform, but at what cost? The vaccine clearly is a way to keep us safe. This hole in my neck, the scar anyway, will always be there to remind me of the miracle," Anderson, who was discharged from hospital on Tuesday, said.

"Sometimes miracles come in the form of scientific advancements," including vaccines, he said to people who may be vaccine hesitant or mistrustful of science.

Dr. David McKinsey, Anderson's infectious disease physician, said he found it hard to comprehend why some people choose not to get vaccinated.

"I don't understand it," McKinsey said. "Anyone who has chosen not to receive the vaccine is putting themselves at significant risk of acquiring COVID and possibly dying. And they are putting others at risk too. The vaccine is safe."

A COVID-19 vaccine
Stock image showing a health worker preparing a COVID-19 vaccine. An unvaccinated man who almost died from COVID-19 has urged people who haven’t done so already to get the shot. iStock