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‘I feel foolish:’ Florida mom shares regret about not getting COVID-19 vaccine sooner

Mother of 8 says she was close to dying

A Florida mother of eight is sharing her story about her battle with COVID-19.

She says she came close to dying and regrets not getting vaccinated.

“It was horrifying,” Ganeene Starling said. “I never in my life have felt like I was going to die until that day.”

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The mother of eight from Lake Butler, Florida, is opening up about how close she came to dying from COVID-19.

Starling had chosen not to get the vaccine. Her husband wasn’t vaccinated either or their children.

She said she let people influence her in not getting the vaccine.

“Just that it had not been around long. Honestly, I think I listened. I think I let people influence me, like saying, ‘Oh, you know, this is the government just trying to fill our bodies with stuff and they’re trying to push this shot on us,’” Starling said.

Earlier this month, Starling’s husband got COVID and then it spread to Starling and their four kids living at home, including their youngest who is just 6.

Soon, Starling was struggling to breathe, so they rushed her to the hospital.

“I remember being very desperate, grabbing the mask and just feeling the oxygen come in,” Starling said.

She spent nine days in the hospital, six of them in the ICU.

“In those moments when you can’t breathe like that even with all the oxygen they were giving me, it feels like you have a Ziploc bag over your head -- like somebody’s holding you and I had oxygen on and I was still feeling that way,” Starling said.

Starling and her husband suspected they already had it and “didn’t even know it.”

“There had been times I’d been sick and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s COVID. No big deal,’” Starling said.

No big deal? Not exactly. Starling’s oxygen had dropped to dangerously low levels. Just 68% she says. Starling was told she had about a 20% chance of survival.

“My youngest baby is 6 years old and so when you’re told that and you have a 6-year-old you know like if I die, he’s probably not going to remember me,” Starling said.

Starling is speaking out now because she wants people to know how much she regrets not getting the vaccine, a decision that nearly cost her her life.

“I was one of those people that was like, ‘I can’t believe people are just going to inject their bodies with this medication. We don’t know enough about it.’ Now I’m just like it’s just a shot. Just get the stupid shot. That vaccine could have stopped all of this. Just one little shot. I feel foolish that I didn’t get it. I wish to God I would have got it because it’s not just about what it could have prevented me from experiencing physically in my life right now, but it could have saved my family so much heartache. My children from seeing me go through that. My husband. My siblings from seeing it.”

Starling now plans to get vaccinated along with her whole family.

She still has trouble breathing, wears an oxygen tube, and has trouble doing even simple tasks.

“So much regret,” Starling said.