TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WAND)- A Taylorville man is encouraging others to get vaccinated by sharing his own personal story of dealing with COVID-19.
Four days before testing positive for COVID-19, Bill Jones, 59, of Taylorville, was able to walk half a mile to his deer stand, shoot a deer, and haul the carcass back to his vehicle himself with "No problem."
Nowadays, Jones can barely walk 20 feet. He said he misses getting outside and doing the activities he loves.
"I love the outdoors. I love being on this lake. I love being out hunting and at home I've got a pool in the backyard and I love working in it and being in it, but I can't do it and it sucks."
Jones and his wife, Lynn Yard, tested positive for COVID-19 back in November, and while Yard has made a full recovery, the same cant be said for Jones.
"On November 24, it all went downhill," said Jones.
Jones initially thought he was developing symptoms of bronchitis – shortness of breath, a cough, pressure in his chest like a cold might be developing there.
A visit to his doctor's office confirmed it was COVID-19; meanwhile, Jones began to get progressively worse.
The former volunteer firefighter had to spend ten days at Taylorville Memorial Hospital due to an alarming concern over his difficulty breathing.
It has now been nearly five months since Jones tested positive for COVID-19.
In that time, he has been hospitalized twice with serious problems related to lung function.
He now has to participate in twice-weekly pulmonary rehab respiratory therapy sessions and is unable to return to his job of more than 20 years with the city of Taylorville streets and sewer department.
Jones relies on oxygen therapy treatments to perform simple physical tasks.
"Right now, because of COVID, I'm essentially living on one lung," he said. "I can walk about 20 feet before [his oxygen levels drop dangerously low]."
As he continues to fight for his own personal return to normal, Jones is vocal about encouraging everyone he knows to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Jones and his wife received the vaccine in March.
"I was eager to get it," he said. "As soon as they called my name, I popped right up, like, 'Let's go!' If getting vaccinated is going to help us [return to normal], everyone's got to do it."
As the supply of COVID-19 vaccines ramps up, government and health experts expect the next obstacle to achieving herd immunity will be persuading more people to get vaccinated.
Vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19; however, the risk of becoming infected is significantly lower. In addition, if a vaccinated person does contract COVID-19, symptoms tend to be mild.
Jones said he has convinced several family members who were hesitant to get vaccinated.
He hopes, by sharing his story, to influence more people in the community to seek the vaccine, which has become available locally to anyone over the age of 16.
In short, Jones said, he would not want anyone to go through the illness and lingering effects of COVID-19 he has suffered.
"COVID not only affected my health, it's affected my quality of life, my livelihood, and my pocketbook," said Jones. "It's serious, and people need to realize that."