CAMERON, Mo. – A Kansas City area father of eight got COVID-19. Then every one of the children living at home did, too.
The only person who didn’t get sick? His wife who is fully vaccinated. They credit the vaccine with protecting her.
“It’s a good reminder of the miracle we faced,” Ben Anderson said about the hole in his throat, a miracle that will become a scar.
It’s from the tracheotomy doctors had to do to keep him alive. The 42-year-old had COVID pneumonia.
“I would think, ‘OK my number one job is don’t die,’” Anderson said.
Anderson went to Chillicothe in late June. He came back with what he thought was a cold and immediately self-isolated away from his family.
After two weeks of not getting better, his wife, Tammy, took him to the emergency room in Cameron. He needed a breathing tube and a higher level of care.
Anderson was transferred an hour away to Research Medical Center. It was a drive Tammy would come to know well.
There, he would spend 42 days, most of them unconscious, in the hospital and 35 days on a ventilator.
“I was pretty close to being dead,” Anderson said.
Anderson wasn’t vaccinated. He said he intended to get the shot, but admitted he was busy and didn’t make it a priority.
“There was a time it appeared when he may not have survived,” Dr. David McKinsey said. “Receiving the vaccine should be an extremely high priority for everyone at this time.”
McKinsey said 95% of the patients they’re now seeing in the ICU are unvaccinated, and only about 20% who need a ventilator survive. Anderson is one of those people.
Last week, he went home. Oxygen tubing now lines their living room floor and ‘get well soon’ cards cover the door.
“It’s real. It’s so real,” Tammy warned. “We almost didn’t get his birthday that we celebrated in the hospital. We almost didn’t have our next anniversary.”
Tammy and Ben have seven children at home, ages 3-18. All of them tested positive less than a week after their dad. Tammy didn’t. She’s the only person in the family to be fully vaccinated.
“If you were going to be home by yourself, husband in the hospital, seven kids at home — with COVID — would you get vaccinated?” Tammy said. “Yeah.”
She remembers getting the phone to come to the hospital — he’s dying.
“Broke down, it’s not time. I’m not ready for this,” Tammy said. “Thankfully, after some more time things turned around for us, but many of the rest on the call list it didn’t turn around.”
McKinsey said the ICU was full then and still is now. He said 95% of those patients in a bed are not vaccinated.
“Why didn’t you get vaccinated?” FOX4 asked Anderson.
“I was busy,” he said, shaking his head.
A computer software manager by day and Marial Arts instructor by night, now he urges others to make time and get vaccinated.
“I would for my family,” Anderson said.
Ben and Tammy believe faith brought them this miracle. They also said the logic is clear.
“I got COVID and almost died,” Anderson said. “She got vaccinated but did not contract it.”
It’s unclear where exactly the kids were exposed to the virus. Tammy said there were known positive cases out of the several activities the kids were involved in during that time.
“I hope our story and what we’ve shared will compel [people] to go in and get vaccinated,” Anderson said. “We’re not trying to tell anyone what to do, but if you’re not doing it because you’re busy or you’re kind of like, ‘I don’t know,’ or maybe you’re just afraid of shots — just go do it for so many reasons.”
Anderson’s kids who are eligible plan to join their dad in getting the vaccine as soon as they recover.