Contracting COVID-19 and living to tell about it will have you preaching a new sermon in a heartbeat. Once Yolanda Walton tells her story, you will understand the passion behind her plea.

“Please go get the shot.”

Walton, 61, of Charlotte, works in customer service at the Walmart Supercenter on East Independence Boulevard. She has always acknowledged the severity of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 4.5 million lives worldwide. But like the 53 percent of Americans who have not yet been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she had decided not to take the vaccine.

Why? “Fear mainly,” Walton said.

Yolanda Walton
Yolanda Walton recovered from COVID and dodged the more serious symptoms. It still turned her life upside down.

She’d heard scary information on the internet, for one thing. (Find the facts here.) In 1999 in San Antonio, she got a flu shot and still came down with the flu. And yes, you can still get the flu if you get vaccinated, but your chances are greatly reduced, and you protect more vulnerable people by getting vaccinated, too. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

She was going to sit this one out, even if her siblings back home in St. Louis were fussing at her.

Walton started feeling poorly on Aug. 9. Her body ached. At first she blamed it on heavy lifting at Walmart. She was congested. Must be a sinus infection. She was tired. Who isn’t? Then she lost her sense of smell and taste.

On Aug. 14, she went to urgent care and took a COVID-19 test. On Aug. 15, she received a text. She had the virus. It was a relatively mild case, so Walton didn’t wind up in the hospital, on a ventilator or worse. She was not prescribed any medication for the virus. But even the mildest cases have turned lives upside down, including hers.

More than 200 million COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S.

Protect yourself. And others.

As soon as she was diagnosed, Walton went home and self-quarantined in her bedroom. Someone she came in contact who also wasn’t vaccinated contracted the virus, too. That person is now feeling better and has returned to work. Walton feels responsible.

Walton herself had to miss two weeks of work, salary she couldn’t easily do without. She felt good enough to return to work Sept. 1. She’s waiting for the medical go-ahead to get her vaccine. Both doses.

Walton has one confession. “I’m hard-headed.”

And one regret. “I didn’t get it sooner.”

This story is nothing new to Dr. Ketan Amin, Walton’s physician.

NH _ Amin_Ketan_Head_Web
Dr. Ketan Amin

Amin is an internist with Novant Health Presbyterian Internal Medicine. His professional life these last 18 months has revolved around COVID-19. He estimates he has seen at least 100 patients who contracted the virus. He cared for one woman (regular care, not for the virus) who lost nine family members to COVID-19. She took both doses of the vaccine. But not everyone is prepared to do what virtually every physician and scientific study concludes is the right thing. One day, Amin was with a patient in the examining room, trying to explain why he needs to get the vaccine.

The patient’s response?

He began yelling at his physician to stop.

Amin’s response?

“I’m not going to shy away.”

Amin believes several factors contribute to the alarming number of people refusing to get vaccinated. He said too many people are believing too much of the false information they’re getting from the internet, friends and family. “Sometimes too much news is not good news,” he said. He also believes the media is focusing too much on the small number of cases – less than 1%, he said – in which someone who gets the vaccine winds up getting the virus. “Bad news makes headlines,” he said.

Here’s the sort of news Amin wishes readers would pay attention to. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the unvaccinated are 440% more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than the vaccinated.

Amin has counseled Walton to get the vaccine to reduce the chances of re-infection. He cites the CDC study that unvaccinated people who have recovered from COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to get reinfected as vaccinated people.

He’s also encouraging Walton to tell her story far and wide. Converts carry weight.

“Her story is very important as she definitely struggled during the COVID infection and understands how serious it was and that it could have been life-threatening,” Amin said “Her voice in letting others know this and to get vaccinated may prevent many others from going through what she went through.”