NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As data continues to show Tennessee ranks worst in the nation for the rate of new COVID cases, Ascension Saint Thomas West gave NewsChannel 5 unprecedented access inside an ICU unit today to speak with someone still recovering from the effects COVID but no longer contagious.
From his hospital bed, 44-year-old Joe Gammon from Lascassas pointed to the collection of pictures on poster board on the wall across from him.
"My wife made this collage," Gammon said. "That's my family, my beautiful family."
The father of six says he's not a fan of labels -- either one thing or another, either this or that.
For one, Joe says he was never completely against the COVID vaccine.
"I've never been an anti-vaxxer, I don't believe in being an anti-vaxxer, I wouldn't encourage people to be an anti-vaxxer, I wouldn't shame someone because they got a vaccine," Gammon said.
A frequent listener of talk radio, he heard there was a COVID Vaccine shortage, so he says he decided not to get vaccinated.
"I didn't want to be the one person who went ahead of somebody who needed it more than me," Gammon said.
Of course, especially in the later months of the pandemic, there was no shortage of COVID vaccine.
Joe eventually contracted COVID two months ago.
"For an active 44-year-old man, I never would have guessed I would be in this scenario," Gammon said.
Gammon was taken off of an ECMO machine Tuesday morning. The machine acts essentially as an artificial external lung. It's a machine that medical professionals say most patients never get off of.
But even as one of the lucky ones, Gammon says he isn't going to tell you to go get a shot; he says he knows how it feels being told what to do.
Instead, he's asking, just go talk to your doctor.
"I think the regret I have is, I didn't go to my primary care physician to find out what his opinion is," Gammon said.
Now, Gammon is focusing on getting better, for the people who love him most.
"Think about your family," Gammon said. "What would your family do if you got this sick and you didn't make it? For me, I could not imagine leaving this world at 44, with a wife who has to raise four daughters, it wouldn't be fair."
Saint Thomas West allowed NewsChannel 5 to speak with several doctors and nurses who work inside the ICU.
Wednesday night on NewsChannel 5 at 10, we will take an in-depth look at ECMO machines, including why it's being used more often to help those battling the Delta variant, and the shortage of nurses needed to run the machines across the mid-state.