Working in a hospital and seeing the effects of COVID-19 wasn’t enough to change Lateasa McLean’s stance against getting vaccinated. Neither was contracting the virus herself. But one week after testing positive, she fainted and was rushed to the hospital, realizing she made a mistake.

Coronavirus Updates, Your Health | one year ago

Lateasa’s Plea After COVID-19 Hospitalization

Lateasa McLean’s stance on COVID-19 vaccination has changed after a devastating hospital stay. She wants others to avoid the mistake she made.

UPDATE: After being cleared by her doctor, Lateasa received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on August 26, 2021. 

Lateasa McLean, a patient representative/patient safety sitter (PSA) at Atrium Health Lincoln, was home on June 21 when she woke up feeling awful that morning. She made it to the bathroom and … “the next thing I know, I was on the floor when I came to.” This happened one week after she tested positive for COVID-19.

Lateasa crawled to her bedroom and called her daughter. Lateasa's oxygen levels were very low when an ambulance arrived and rushed her to the hospital. “I could hardly breathe and hardly move,” she says. “I knew right then that I need to be vaccinated.”

She can’t believe her previous opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, even though as a PSA she sees everything COVID-19 patients can go through. Lateasa gets emotional now, speaking through tears and sobs, when recalling her resistance and subsequent ordeal.

“This thing was right in front of my eyes, it’s right in front of our eyes, and we’re overlooking it,” she says. “It took me getting in the hospital (with COVID-19) to realize I need to get vaccinated. It took that for me to open my eyes and see what’s going on.”

No promise everything would be okay

Lateasa was admitted at Atrium Health Lincoln that day, capping a whirlwind week since she tested positive on June 14. She got tested after experiencing symptoms for a few days, including cough, diarrhea, headache, nausea, body aches, and loss of taste and smell.

Feeling worse and worse over the next few days, Lateasa went to the emergency department on June 18.

“The doctors didn’t want to release me, but I wanted to go home,” she says. “They gave me prescriptions, a nebulizer and steroids. I came home and felt kind of okay. But over the next days the symptoms got worse,” until she wound up on her bathroom floor.

In addition to feeling terrible, Lateasa was scared while being admitted. She also was angry at herself, desperate for a chance to reverse her vaccination stance and wondering if she could.

“You’re on your deathbed,” she says. “I told the doctor, ‘Please don’t let me die.’ He said, ‘I’m doing the best I can, but I can’t promise you that.’”

Waiting but ready for her shot

There were times she felt like giving up during her seven-day hospital stay. Family members weren’t allowed to visit, but she had support from her Atrium Health Lincoln teammates. “They helped me, cleaned me, and held my hand when nobody else was there,” she says. “Them coming in and talking to me helped me through the whole process.”

Lateasa says she never imagined COVID-19’s devastating effects. She was extremely fatigued and filled with anxiety. Her fever was up and down, and she could barely lift her head. But the biggest thing involved something most folks take for granted.

“I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “If I tried to stand up, my oxygen dropped all the way down. I was in the bed the whole time for four or five days.”

No one was too pushy prior to Lateasa contracting the virus, but some Atrium Health teammates, church members, friends, and relatives talked to her about getting vaccinated. They would mention it from time to time, she says, but she was adamantly against it.

“I was waiting for a sign from God. I don’t know why,” she says.

Now, her story is encouraging other people to get vaccinated. Most of her family has gotten the vaccine, and they’re spreading the message in their circles. Lateasa remains on medical leave and hasn’t been cleared to be vaccinated yet.

“If I could go now to get vaccinated, I would go now,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Learn more about the vaccine and where to schedule your vaccination.