One last shot (for my brother)

Note to readers: This week, with the exception of the added photos, you’re getting exactly the same column that is on the Voices page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today. It’s too hard for me right now to think about adding facts and figures to something so emotional for me, even though working is the only thing keeping me sane. Please: Get vaccinated.

I would give anything not to be writing this column right now.

On Friday, my plans were to write on political extremism, and had picked the political cartoon on the page to match. My brother who had been hospitalized with covid seemed to be doing better.

Dat’s my brudder. He always had much bigger feet than me.

Saturday afternoon, that changed. He was being transferred to rehab for his lungs when he had a stroke in the elevator. Luckily, he was in a hospital when it happened. Unluckily, the clot was too large for tPA (tissue plasminogen activator, an intravenous clot-busting medication; the same thing I received for my stroke) to work, and the hospital he was in didn’t have the equipment to take it out.

He was taken by Life Flight to Little Rock, but the hospital here wasn’t able to remove the clot. As I began writing this Sunday morning, he’d had an MRI to see how much damage the stroke did, and his covid and pneumonia had worsened to the point that he was put on heavy-duty antibiotics and a ventilator in ICU, though he was stable.

By Tuesday morning, the situation was even more grave, and he may be gone by the time you read this.

I’ve been crying pretty much nonstop since our oldest brother called me with the news Saturday, and I start crying again every time someone comments on one of my Facebook posts about him, or a family member posts about him.

I love my brother. I’m also angry with him, which is hard to reconcile. He’s the closest to me in age, and the person I spent most of the first four or five years of my life with. He’s also the member of the family most like our beloved Grandpa Grover, and can tell you stories that will have you rolling with laughter.

Yep, Corey, better get your story straight.

I had to stop talking about the covid vaccine with him on my posts as it always ended in a fight, which was sometimes ended by a friend telling him to back off. I have to hope that that strong personality of his carries him through.

I know he believed natural immunity was best, and he had managed for a year and a half not to catch covid despite being around so many unmasked and unvaccinated people. I believe in the vaccination, and in fact got my booster late Saturday morning, along with my flu shot, with only a little nausea, and a bit of soreness and tenderness at the injection site.

I couldn’t convince him of the need for the vaccine, and I feel guilty about that. I write and edit for a living; not exactly a ringing endorsement of my persuasive writing skills. We can’t know for sure that his refusal to be vaccinated is the reason for his dire straits, but I feel confident that the vaccine could have prevented the worst of this and made that clot less likely.

I still believe vaccination is the wisest choice, and the medical evidence supports it, with the bulk of the deaths since mid-to-late January (a month or so after the vaccine became available) having occurred among the fully or partially unvaccinated.

I could list statistics all day, but that’s not what I care about right now. I care about my hard-headed redheaded brother.

Corey’s older son David’s daughter, Abrie, held by Grandpa Corey when she was just a wee thing. David died at 31. Abrie is now a mom.

Corey Looper is a talented photographer and storyteller. He has many friends thanks to his wit and his talent with pizza at the Alma Pizza Parlour. He loves fishing and spending time with his family, friends, and his longtime love Carletta and her son Tristan. He’s a father, grandfather and great-grandfather (albeit a young one). He had to bury one son not too awfully long ago.

Corey never had the easiest life, but he always kept looking on the bright side and would find a way to draw out a laugh. He wouldn’t want his family and friends to be sad, but to be happy that they’ve known him all this time. He’s delightful, after all, just like his mom and grandpa.

He might not agree with me using his situation to encourage more people to get vaccinated, but I think I should, for the sake of those left behind whenever someone succumbs to something that could be prevented or at minimum have the most serious effects kept at bay.

Here are the facts. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but it can keep you from getting seriously ill. The covid vaccines have been fully tested and evaluated in extensive clinical trials, and are continually monitored for safety. Breakthrough infections do happen, especially with the Delta variant, but are in most cases less severe and less likely to result in lifelong complications.

Regardless of your thoughts on vaccination, please be careful, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated or can’t be because of pre-existing conditions. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance when with people who haven’t been vaccinated to lessen the chance of spread.

If you don’t care about protecting yourself, at least protect those you love—the ones who’ll be left behind to pick up the pieces if your gamble with your life doesn’t pay off. Public health shouldn’t be a political minefield; we should care about ourselves and each other enough to try to prevent unnecessary death and disability.

And please, please, please: Tell those you love that you love them. You never know when it will be the last time.

I was an ugly crier then, and still am, especially now. Corey’s on the left, Mitch is holding the crybaby, and Kevin’s on the right.