Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients share why they changed their minds about the shot

"We thought it wasn't an urgent matter to get the vaccine and I was wrong."

Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are sharing their stories of battling the dangerous virus and why the experience changed their minds about the shot.

'I thought I was going to die'

Unvaccinated New Orleans resident Steve Witschel documented his change of heart while in intensive care with COVID-19.

"If you haven’t gotten it yet, go get the vaccine. I wish I did," he said in a selfie video from the hospital. "The last week or so, my life was hell. I thought I was going to die."

He went on, “I’ve never been that sick and never felt that miserable, never had that little energy. I could barely brush my teeth without running out of breath. It’s horrible. Once I’m out of this, hopefully I get out of this, I will get the vaccine for sure. And I’m going to wear a mask all the time."

After his discharge from the hospital, Witschel filmed another video on Aug. 7.

"I’m going to have to deal with this for a while," Witschel said. "The oxygen I’m going to have to be on for at least a few weeks. And it’s the blood clots in my lungs that need to get cleared up that the doctor said it’s going to take at least six months.”

He added, “I’m happy to be home. I’m happy to be alive.”

'This isn't fun'

Curtis Cannon, a 75-year-old COVID-19 patient at Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, spoke to ABC News from his hospital bed on Aug. 5.

Cannon said he was at first skeptical about the vaccine. But now, struggling to breathe and suffering severe chest pains, he realizes how "real" COVID-19 is.

Cannon said he'd tell others who are skeptical: "They need to get vaccinated, because this isn't fun."

Cannon said he'll get vaccinated once he is released from the hospital.

'I was wrong'

Travis Campbell, an unvaccinated COVID-19 patient, spoke to ABC News from his hospital bed at the Bristol Regional Medical Center Hospital in Tennessee.

"When you feel like you have to fight for your life, you don't realize that you're fighting for every single breath all day long," he said.

The 43-year-old husband and dad said he regrets not getting vaccinated.

"We thought it wasn't an urgent matter to get the vaccine and I was wrong," Campbell said.

"I would rather be covered and protected and if something does happen and I have to worry about repercussions of the vaccine versus being buried in seven days," he said. "I beg you, please see your doctor and make an evaluated decision and protect your family or prepare yourself for your next life."

'Just go ahead and get it'

Ian Woods, 38, has been at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, for over one week with COVID-19.

"I honestly thought it would be kind of like getting the flu. And I would probably just lay up in bed for a few days in my house and nourish myself back to health," he told ABC News from the hospital on Aug. 11.

He said he put off getting the vaccine because "I've been having allergies a lot the last few months and I was afraid that getting the vaccine on top of not feeling good wouldn't bode well for me."

To Americans not yet vaccinated, Woods said, "Don't be afraid to get it -- just go ahead and get it. It's worth it."

He said he wishes he was vaccinated, "otherwise I probably wouldn't have wound up in the hospital like this."

'Have a fighting chance'

Marquis Davis, a 28-year-old husband and father from Florida, died from COVID-19 on July 26, 2021. He wasn't vaccinated.

Davis had been hesitant to take the vaccine. He told his wife in the hospital that he wanted to get the shot after he recovered.

To honor his memory, his family turned his funeral into a vaccine and testing event.

"This could have been prevented, so let’s get vaccinated so it doesn’t happen to you," his wife, Charnese Davis, told ABC News.

"At least have a fighting chance. Protect yourself. Protect your family. This is nothing to be to be playing around with," she said.

'I never expected to be a widow at the age of 25'

Braderick Wright, a 28-year-old Georgia man who was hesitant to get the vaccine, died of COVID-19 on Aug. 7, 2021, reported ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB.

"He was deep into TikTok conspiracy theories and, for him, he just didn’t want to get [vaccinated]," his wife Brittany Wright told WSB.

"I never expected to be a widow at the age of 25," she told WSB.

Brittany Wright said her husband's dying wish was for more people to get vaccinated.

'Please just get vaccinated'

Lateasa McLean, a 51-year-old in Lincoln County, North Carolina, was hospitalized twice after testing positive for COVD-19.

"My grandson and my granddaughter, they’re wheeling me out and I’m thinking, 'Is this going to be the last time that I see them?'" she told ABC Charlotte affiliate WSOC.

While in the hospital, McLean said she realized, "I should have gotten vaccinated. And now I’m putting my family through this, for something I could have prevented."

McLean, who works as a patient representative/patient safety sitter at a hospital, said she plans to get vaccinated.

"I just want everybody to listen to my story and please just get vaccinated," she told WSOC.

'Nobody wants to die'

When Andres Perekalsk, a 43-year-old former pro soccer player, was rushed to a Texas hospital with COVID-19, he thought he was going to die, he later told ABC Houston station KTRK.

"In your head, you go through many things -- your kids, your family, why didn't I get vaccinated?" the husband and dad of two said.

Perekalsk said he did not get the vaccine because he was brainwashed by misinformation.

Perekalsk said he'd now tell others, "Do it for your kids, do it for your family, do it for yourself … nobody wants to die."

'I pushed it back'

David Espino, a 17-year-old high school football player in Florida, was not vaccinated and ended up in the hospital with COVID-19.

“It’s been pretty scary," he told ABC News from his hospital bed. "I wasn’t actually able to go to the bathroom without shortness of breath a couple of days ago."

His mom, Maricela Espino, said she planned on getting David the shot, especially after his pediatrician recommended it, but said, "For summer we were out of town and then for one thing or another, it just kind of, I pushed it back."

She said she's now planning on getting shots for her other children, ages 12 and 15, immediately.

She said she's encouraging other parents to vaccinate their kids if eligible.

"With school starting and you know we're here [at a hospital], and more than half of the kids here are, you know, due to COVID, and so it's scary," she said.

'Our children are not invincible'

Damonte Clark, a 13-year-old in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spent 14 days in the ICU. He was diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) stemming from a COVID-19 infection.

All of his vital organs were inflamed and failing, his mother, Derica McLeod, told ABC News on Aug. 9.

"I literally thought that was going to be the last time that I see my son," she said. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody."

Damonte was not vaccinated at the time. McLeod didn't know the vaccine was available to him.

"I got him sanitizer. We had masks, he had gloves, he stopped going to school," McLeod said. "He still ended up in the ICU for 14 days."

McLeod said she'll allow her two older children -- ages 17 and 21 -- to decide for themselves if they want be vaccinated. But she does want Damonte to get the shot.

"We are not invincible. Our children are not invincible. And there's nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness, because in that situation, there's nothing you can do," she said. "There's nothing worse than being a mother who can't protect your baby. "

ABC News' Marcus Moore, Arielle Mitropoulos, Marlene Lenthang, Victor Oquendo and Haley Yamada contributed to this report.

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