Category: Health and Wellness

Drowning… and COVID-19

When I was a teenager, I basically lived in the water. Between the huge municipal pool a few blocks from my home and friends’ camps along Bayou Teche, I was pretty much always wet.  My dad loved the water, and he taught us to ski, swim, dive, you name it.

I eventually became a lifeguard and was able to swim long distances underwater without coming up for air. Resting, I could hold my breath for almost two minutes. I could swim for about 75 seconds without taking a breath. When I was 17, I won several lifeguard competitions (underwater swim, deepest dive, endurance testing). Hard to believe looking at me now, but I was quite the watery athlete!

Once, out on the Teche, some friends and I were diving from a dock into a very deep hole in the bayou (not the smartest because the water was muddy and you couldn’t begin to see the bottom). On one dive, my brand-new high school graduation ring fell off my hand and vanished into the muddy water! Without a second thought, I dove in after it. I kept going down, and down, the water got darker and darker until I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I eventually found mud and miraculously, my hand fell right onto the ring. I was so far underwater my ears were ringing. I have no idea how deep I went.

I started for the surface, still unable to see a thing, hoping I was going in the right direction. I eventually saw some light, pulling for all I was worth, but still didn’t reach the surface. Rapidly running out of air, I began to literally drown, darkness began to color the edge of my vision. My chest felt as if it would explode; I had no idea how far under I was or how close to air. I began to pass out and could no longer swim. As consciousness was escaping me, the pain unbearable, I felt a strong arm grab me and pull me upward into the light. Several friends had seen me go down, worried sick when I stayed under far too long, and tracked my trail of bubbles until they could find me.

After a vigorous tongue-lashing from them, and still terrified and weak, I was OK. My chest felt crushed, my head was pounding, but I knew I was very fortunate to be alive. For just a moment, I felt what it was like to actually drown. Terrifying.

A Scary Analogy

Now think about what happens to many of the people who die because of COVID-19. The virus triggers a hyper-immune response and devours the lining of their lungs, filling them with fluid and debris until they can’t breathe on their own. They are drowning, slowly, for days. Days.

I cannot imagine anything more terrible than that. In fact, I can honestly say I would be very happy if nobody in Louisiana ever had to experience anything like that ever again. That would be very powerful and meaningful to me.

We do have a way to avoid this for almost everyone you know. It’s so simple. Put your fear, and your emotions aside, and get vaccinated against COVID-19. Simple.

As of Friday, Aug. 20, there are 3,013 people in the hospital because of COVID-19. Of those, 91% are people who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine for one reason or another. I’m really not that interested in why the patients older than 12, who are eligible for the vaccine, chose not to take it. It’s a highly effective, safe, free vaccine that is widely available around the state, but they didn’t get it. COVID doesn’t care why they passed on the vaccine, either. It happily reproduced in their cells until it ruined their bodies.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announced Tuesday, Aug. 17, we lost 122 people in one day to COVID-19. It’s the second-highest daily death total since the pandemic began. Many of them drowned over days and days, continuously. Can you imagine? Ruined lives, almost certainly avoidable. Unbelievable pain. Unnecessary loss of life. Would we be this calm about it if those 122 people had drowned on a lake skiing, or in a bayou tubing? Of course not.

You know how many of the dead were vaccinated? Much less than 1% statewide. We have nearly 40% of the state fully vaccinated, so those hospitalizations and deaths are, by a vast majority, coming from people who haven’t gotten the vaccine.

I know most of you will never meet anyone who was so sick from COVID-19 that they had to be put on mechanical ventilation just to stay alive. That’s because a huge chunk of ventilator patients don’t make it. They just keep drowning until their body can’t take it anymore.

Ask Yourself These Questions

I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of people who have passed on getting vaccinated, and I’ve got good, solid answers why they should take their shot, if they care to listen. Once emotion takes over, once bad data becomes gospel, once people stop believing doctors and state officials who have given their lives to save lives, then bad decisions cannot help but follow.

If you are unvaccinated, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I unvaccinated because I believe these current vaccines are experimental, unproven or untested? Get ready, because in the next two weeks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is likely to give the COVID-19 vaccines full approval. Since late last year, they’ve been given through an emergency use authorization, which by the way is not an uncommon way to roll out a new drug or medical treatment. Will you go get your shots when it’s approved and not authorized? Did you know more than 2 million shots have ALREADY been given in Louisiana and only EIGHT (8) people had a serious reaction to the shot? And NONE of them died. None.
  2. Am I unvaccinated because I believe someone is trying to control my behavior and make me do something I don’t want to do, or put a chip in my body? Consider what anyone would actually have to gain by you LIVING instead of DYING in that situation, since the vaccine is going to be highly likely to save your life. And are your movements, your personal to-ing, and fro-ing, so valuable that the government would want to know what you’ve been up to? Is that a rational response?  It feels a bit too far afield for me, honestly.
  3. Am I unvaccinated because I believe the shots will damage my fertility or my unborn child? We now have solid evidence that catching COVID DURING PREGNANCY increases your risk for pre-term births. In fact, expectant moms are risking MORE fetal complications and early births by not getting vaccinated. And the fertility argument has been discredited many times over. There is no link between any fertility problems and the COVID-19 vaccines. None.
  4. Am I unvaccinated because I don’t believe COVID-19 is a genuine threat? 10,500 Louisiana lives have been snuffed out before their time because of COVID-19. So many people that our state’s life expectancy has gone DOWN by 1.5 years. I’ve never lied to you, and I never will; you cannot predict what COVID-19 will do to you if you catch it. You can increase your chance of any COVID-19 you might catch being a mild, SURVIVABLE case by getting vaccinated.
  5. Am I unvaccinated because I can’t afford it? Vaccines are free, and you don’t need health insurance. You can even get free rides to and from your appointment, if you don’t have a car, can’t drive or have transportation issues. Call 211 to book your ride.
  6. Am I unvaccinated because I don’t know where to go? Almost every drugstore in the state, including the ones in big-box retailers, is taking appointments right now. You can call on the phone, use their websites, or drop by. And the shots are free. The state has a full list you can search. Or call the State of Louisiana’s Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774 for help scheduling an appointment. The hotline staff can help you find vaccine locations near you or connect you with clinicians who can answer your vaccine questions.
  7. Am I unvaccinated because I’ll probably get COVID-19 anyway? Our data shows that you still might catch COVID-19 even if you get the shots, but the odds go WAY down, and the odds of you having such a bad case that you end up in the hospital go WAY down, and the odds of you dying of COVID-19 almost disappear completely. There is a huge difference if you get the shot and still get COVID-19 vs. facing it without that protection.
  8. Am I unvaccinated because I’m afraid of needles? If you can’t get anyone to go with you and hold your hand, I’ll come with you. Seriously, if I can show up and you’ll brave the needles because I’m there, I’ll do it. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. Email me at And don’t be embarrassed if that’s the case – there are lots of people with needle phobia. You will not be the first patient to walk in with this problem. If you know you’ll be scared, tell the person giving you the shot beforehand. That person has done this before and can give you tips to make it easier. You can also use a stress ball, relax your arm, listen to music, picture soothing images – anything to help you ease up for the jab. BTW, it’s a small needle, and it will literally be over in seconds. Plus, if you’re afraid of needles, the last place you’ll want to end up is in the hospital, where the treatment is a lot more invasive.
  9. Am I unvaccinated because the federal government’s website shows a bunch of people died from the vaccine? There is no data on the federal health website that shows a single death from a COVID-19 vaccination. But there is an open database (VAERS) where anybody can publish anything for health officials to investigate, and thousands of people have thrown stuff in there. Clinicians and scientists are working through the data and they haven’t found a single legitimate vaccine-caused death to date. Not one.
  10. Am I unvaccinated because my doctor told me not to take the shots? Get a second opinion; even doctors sometimes fall prey to misinformation. But 93% of physicians in the U.S. are ALREADY vaccinated, and 85% of all nurses are vaccinated. That’s a pretty strong indicator that they have faith in the vaccines.
  11. Am I unvaccinated because I’m taking ivermectin, or hydroxychloroquine? There is NO REPEATABLE, PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH (that means real, valid research that you can trust and count upon) that shows either of these drugs help you resist COVID-19 or will help you recover faster if you catch COVID-19. Does not exist. For a medicine to be safe and effective, you should always look for REPEATABLE, PEER-REVIEWED research that says it is safe and effective FOR THE CONDITION YOU CARE ABOUT. Ivermectin works great on intestinal parasites, but COVID is a VIRUS. Very different stuff. You need to be vaccinated to be protected. And, in general – do not take drugs without asking your doctor or pharmacist about it first.
  12. Am I unvaccinated because I’ve already HAD COVID-19 and now I have “natural immunity”? The most recent, repeatable, peer-reviewed research is showing that on average, your “natural immunity” from COVID-19 will last about six months. After that, your likelihood to catch the virus increases every month. IF you get vaccinated, you extend that protection for at least eight more months. I personally had COVID-19 in October 2020 and received my second shot of vaccine in March 2021. I figure I’m going to need a booster around Thanksgiving. That’s just how it works. This isn’t the mumps, where you get the virus once and you’re done. COVID-19 mutates pretty fast, so the vaccines help us keep our protection against it.

Straight Talk is, as a cancer survivor and lifelong Louisiana native, I love this place and each and every one of you. I want you hanging around for as long as possible, enjoying this amazing life we have. Please don’t let your emotions, your fears or some self-proclaimed “expert” who may not have your best interests in mind talk you out of getting vaccinated.


Posted on: August 20, 2021

12 comments on “Drowning… and COVID-19

  1. Charles L WILLIAMS

    Thanks for listing s many objections. I have three unvaccinated employees with three different objections and you covered each one. Thank you very much. Now I’ll share the information.

    • Michael Bertaut

      Bonnie, Denise, Charlie, Megan!
      Thanks to all of you for your kind words, and your personal actions to make Louisiana a safer and healthier place!
      I could do half what we talk about here without your support!
      Blessings on you all!

    • Michael Bertaut

      Absolutely! The Docs tell me that if your “antibodies” are high because of a previous Covid infection, getting vaccination will boost your immunity vs Delta immensely AND raise the chances that any break-through infection you might experience will not lead to a hospital stay or something worse. In fact, I had very high antibodies when I was vaccinated and have done well.
      Cheers and thanks for reading!…mrb

  2. Michael Robert Bertaut

    You can scratch off Reason #1. The FDA issued full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this morning, and the Moderna will be close behind. No more “experimental”.

  3. Francie Dillard

    I love analogies but as someone who is a friend with that mother, of that child, that did not find his way back up to the light in time….I am deeply disappointed in “Straight Talk”. This is the first time I have responded to this public service that in the past, I have found enlightening and have truly respected.
    On September 9, 2021, I will be participating in the 9th Annual Honor Connor Smile Run in North Richland Hills, TX. Connor’s mom, Dana Gage, founder of the LV Project, is a national advocate for water buoyancy. The Gage family is all about educating families about the need for life vests in those innocent times on open murky lake water in honor of Connor and others. The LV Project is specifically focused on the use of life vests on lakes and open water by lifting those in need with specific service projects. I am sure you would not find it surprising that the state of LA is one of the last to be a strong advocate for education and enforcement on open water possibly for reasons you mentioned. Many of our families are raised around camps, swimming, fishing and boating and share your confidence in open water.
    I understand your concern for the people of this great state of Louisiana! Specifically the choice LA residents make to receive the COVID vaccine. I too am concerned about this virus forcing tremendous loss of life, lengthy recovery times and the well being of our citizens.
    It’s just that this topic of drowning is a little raw for me and others who feel they have few controls for safety on the water also. Stay well, live and love buoyantly!

    • Michael Bertaut

      I very much appreciate your comments, and I’m thrilled to know we have so much in common! The incident I described above was in 1978, when I was young, feeling invincible, and more than a little foolish. In my later years, I have become rabidly pro-life vest and wouldn’t DREAM of going out on the water without one. Your cause is just and important. Please keep up the good work! The dangers on the water are real, and manifest, and we need to all be vigilant about them.
      Have a Great Day!…mrb


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