BILLINGS - On the way to the hospital a month ago, Adam Ptaszynski said he felt like he wasn't going to make it.
“I should have gotten a shot, but I was too stubborn and too stupid," he said recently from his room at Billings Clinic.
He had been diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks before as he and his wife, Patricia, were traveling across the country.
The retired Navy corpsman and National Guard member said he had to be intubated the day he arrived.
"That scared the hell out of me,” he said.
Sedated and intubated, Ptaszynski teetered between life and death.
He spent a full week on a ventilator, two more weeks in the ICU and now that he's COVID free, he's going on his second week in his hospital room.
“The COVID tore me up," he said, "I have to learn how to walk again and move around. I'm too weak. I’m learning how to do a lot of things all over again. And I'm 57 years old. And that's tough."
The Virginia man openly admits politics played a major role in his decision to not get vaccinated, but the fear of dying has him now pleading with others.
“We all need to put our political and our own personal bias aside and get the shot," he said.
In Yellowstone County, 70,187 of the eligible population was vaccinated as of Tuesday, or about 51 percent, according to Montana's COVID-19 tracker. That's slightly below Montana's 52 percent vaccination rate.
As of Tuesday, 107 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Billings' two hospitals. Of those, 90 patients were not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Christy Bazter, the Billings Clinic director of critical care, says she's a little hopeless right now.
"We're seeing a young population of patients being admitted, who are critically ill, who we don't know if these people are going to go home and see their families again," she said.
She said more than 90% of the patients hospitalized and in the ICU are unvaccinated at Billings Clinic.
She said hospital resources can hardly be stretched thinner than they already are, and the hospital is well overcapacity.
"So I would encourage people to please think about getting the vaccine to prevent yourself from having to be one of the patients in the ICU when we're out."
For those still on the fence, Ptaszynski said get off the fence: "Get the damn shot.”
*RiverStone Health vaccine clinics.
· September 22, noon – 2 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room
· September 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., RiverStone Health (4 story building)
· September 29, noon – 2 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room
· October 5, noon – 2 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room
· October 7, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., Healthy by Design’s Gardener’s Market
· October 12, noon – 2 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room
· October 20, noon – 2 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room
· October 27, 2 – 4 p.m., Billings Public Library Community Room