LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A 34-year-old man who tweeted about refusing to get the vaccine died earlier this week from COVID, chronicling his hospital journey along the way.
Stephen Harmon's last tweet from his now-protected Twitter account was written Wednesday, just before he was intubated.
"i'm choosing to go under intubation, i've fought this thing as hard as i can but unfortunately it's reached a point of critical choice & as much as i hate having to do this i'd rather it be willingness than forced emergency procedure. don't know when i'll wake up, please pray."
Just six weeks earlier, he tweeted, "If you're having email problems, I feel back for you, son. I got 99 problems, but a vax ain't one."
"I can't even emphasize how unbelievably demoralizing this is," Dr. Oren Friedman said.
Friedman is on the frontline, treating COVID patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He said the hospital has seen a tenfold increase in COVID admissions.
"Virtually every single person that is getting sick enough to be admitted to the hospital has not been vaccinated," he said.
On his now-private Instagram account, Harmon posted photos of himself from his hospital bed. He wrote that he had pneumonia and was at risk of brain damage due to his low oxygen levels.
"I can tell you that for the respiratory therapists and nurses and doctors that are having to go into rooms and take care of patients who are this sick at this stage — and to know that it's preventable if people simply had taken the vaccine — it is an awful feeling of [post-traumatic stress disorder] and frustration," Friedman said.
Harmon was a graduate of Hillson College and attended Hillsong Church in Los Angeles. In an Instagram post, Hillsong founder Brian Houston called Harmon one of the most generous people.
In a written statement provided to CBS Los Angeles, Houston said:
"The death of Stephen Harmon was a sad day for those who knew him and called him a friend. Any loss of life is a moment to mourn and offer support to those who are suffering and so our heartfelt prayers are with his family and those who loved him. As a church, our focus is on the spiritual well-being of the people in each of our local communities. On any medical issue, we strongly encourage those in our church to follow the guidance of their doctors. While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals."
On Sunday, three days before his death, Harmon tweeted, "If you don't have faith that God can heal me over your stupid ventilator then keep the Hell out of my ICU room, there's no room in here for fear or lack of faith!"
"I had one patient who looked at me right before we had to place the breathing tube down, and he got very tearful and he shook his head and he said, 'Oh my God, I think I've made a really, really terrible mistake,'" Friedman said.
Unlike at the start of the pandemic, Friedman said he has started seeing young and otherwise healthy people being hospitalized with COVID. He said the only breakthrough cases he has been treating are in those who already had compromised immune systems.
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