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Health & Science

Pastor Who Suffered Through COVID-19 Regrets Not Getting Vaccinated

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have the story next of Danny Reeves. He is a pastor in Corsicana, Texas, and he is one of those who chose not to get vaccinated when he had a chance. Last month, Reeves was fighting for his life at the Baylor Medical Center ICU in Dallas. Now, as he recovers, he wants people to know he regrets not getting the shot. A few days ago, he spoke with our colleague, Debbie Elliott.

DANNY REEVES: Well, my body is feeling stronger. You know, I've been through a lot of things, but where we are now is I still deal with some slight tachycardia, which just simply means my heart races when I get up and move. But my lungs are processing oxygen well. I have not worn oxygen but just a few hours since I got home, you know, over two weeks ago. And I was able to make it back to my office yesterday for a two-hour visit, so I'm very thankful.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Oh, good. Now, it sounds like it was touch and go there for a time for you. Will you take us back and sort of explain what happened?

REEVES: Sure. I was diagnosed with COVID at the age of 49. You know, I'm very disciplined in my health. I lift weights. I do cardio. And so I had this opinion that, you know, if I did get COVID, it wouldn't really affect me that much, and so I assumed I would just get well. However, on day 10, which was a Friday, I called my family and said I need to go to the hospital, which are words that they would never hear from me. I was rushed to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. And from there, it got very harrowing. Found out in my discharge papers, interestingly enough, that I had turned severely septic in the hospital.

ELLIOTT: Oh, wow.

REEVES: And I think that's probably one of the reasons I went to the ICU. And it really let me know the depths of my sickness and seriousness.

ELLIOTT: So it really has taken a toll on you in a lot of ways.

REEVES: Oh, it ravaged my healthy body. There's no doubt.

ELLIOTT: I'm curious - why were you hesitant to get the vaccine?

REEVES: I just was overconfident. I was falsely and erroneously overconfident. I just - people have couched me, Debbie, as anti-vax. The truth is that's not the case. I encouraged a lot of people to get the vaccination, but it was primarily senior adults. And because I was healthy - I think I'm like a lot of people - They just think that it's not going to touch them, and that was unfortunately the attitude that I had - that if I did get it, I thought it would just be, you know, a nothing issue. And in that, I was deeply, deeply wrong.

ELLIOTT: I'm wondering about the information about vaccines. Where were you getting your information? Where are members of your congregation getting information about whether it's safe to have the vaccination?

REEVES: Wherever I can. This process, you know - perhaps it was confusing for me. I think it was, and I think it's confusing to many. And, you know, this particular issue - I don't think it should have been, but it has been - it's been politicized. And there's a lot of information out there. Some of it's true. Some of it's not. I had a wonderful conversation with a physician in the ICU, and he actually happened to be a part of the development board for the Pfizer vaccine. He was able to just walk me through, you know, just, I really thought, an informative session of dispelling maybe some of the rumors that are out there. And I've heard so many things, and so has half of our U.S. society.

I'll tell you and your listeners today I will get vaccinated. My body's filled with antibodies, but, you know, he was very clear. You know, after 90 days, I should really go get the vaccine, and I will. And I've encouraged my own family to do that. You know, I'm encouraging my church congregation to do that. And so, you know, I'm just hopeful, you know, that people will listen and respond.

ELLIOTT: I know you're taking this sort of a day at a time, trying to get stronger, but when you are back in the pulpit, I'm curious what that first sermon is going to sound like.

REEVES: Yeah (laughter). Well, I'm excited about it. You know, the first thing is I'm still very weak. I climbed a couple of stairs yesterday and had to stand at the top of the stairs, and you'd have thought I just ran a mile top speed. I had to catch my breath.

Debbie, that first sermon is going to be a retelling of my story. We're going to praise God together, you know, for his rescue. We're going to celebrate, you know, what God has done. I'm going to lay out lessons that I've learned. And certainly, I'm going to talk straight to our people about who we can and should be as God's people and what it really means to love our neighbor.

ELLIOTT: This has been quite the humbling experience for you. I'm curious if there's any particular scripture that has been comforting during this time.

REEVES: Yeah, I appreciate you asking that. You know, certainly, Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength - was a great motivation to me. You know, that I can overcome this. And God, you know, just infused that into my heart. There is a wonderful song that we sing in the church. It's called "Way Maker." And it says God is our way maker. He's our promise keeper. He's our light in the darkness.

And there was this great experience - you know, I was watching my oxygen saturation levels nonstop, and they were hovering lower than they should have been. And I started trying to sing that song, "Way Maker," and I was worshipping. And my nurse - she ran to my room, and she said, Mr. Reeves, your oxygen levels are really great all of a sudden. What are you doing? And I said, I'm singing to the Lord, and I'm worshipping. And she said, keep it up.

(LAUGHTER)

ELLIOTT: Pastor Danny Reeves of the First Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas. Thank you so much for being with us.

REEVES: I'm praying for your safety. And thank you so much, Debbie, for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAY MAKER")

ELEVATION WORSHIP: (Singing) You are the way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.