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'COVID-19 is a bad illness' | Iowa doctor details his family's experience with the virus

Dr. Paul Volker is a physician with Des Moines University who wrote about his wife and his own experience with coronavirus.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands of Iowans have become sick and died from coronavirus over the last year and a half. Two residents who recently had breakthrough cases of the virus are sharing their experiences with others as a way to show just how effective the vaccine is at saving lives.

Dr. Paul Volker and his wife, Barbara, had been very careful throughout the pandemic: they rarely went out in public, and always were masked.

After both getting fully vaccinated this year, the Volkers decided it was safe enough to vacation with family in the summer.

Soon after getting home from the trip, Volker and his wife started experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. They got tested and sure enough, both were positive.

"I'd wake up in the morning, then I'd lay down for a nap and have lunch and lay down for another nap," said Volker.

His wife's bout with the illness was worse.

"My wife has intermittent asthma, when she got the illness, she had a terrible, terrible cough," said Volker. "And when I came home from work on a Wednesday, she said, 'I can't breathe.' And that certainly got my attention."

Volker said his wife's doctor told her she would have died had not been vaccinated.

"You know, I'm not a 30-year-old anymore," said Volker. "And although me and my wife are both fairly healthy, there are folks with no risk factors who are in their 30's and 40's, who are succumbing to this illness. So you don't know for sure."

Volker shared his experience by writing an opinion editorial piece in the Des Moines Register earlier this month.

"COVID-19 is a bad illness. It's an infectious illness," said Volker. "And the really great news is we've got excellent ways of preventing, getting sick from this illness. It's called vaccination, but three good brands of vaccine are out now."

"And that lowers your risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death by at least a factor of 10 times. If you're a gambler, you wouldn't hesitate to take that bet."

Right now, about 62% of Iowans are vaccinated against COVID-19. A new group of Iowans, ages 5-11, are now eligible to begin receiving the Pfizer shot. 

Volker said the key to getting the pandemic in a manageable place is vaccines.

"If we can get everybody vaccinated, or most people vaccinated, the likelihood of getting the illness and the likelihood of getting serious illness is going to be substantially reduced," said Volker.

Watch more coronavirus stories on YouTube.