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Doctor says hospitalized COVID-19 patients in East Texas are trending younger, mostly unvaccinated

Wang-Kocik encourages vaccination as hospitalization numbers rise in East Texas
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 7:26 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas doctor said this new wave of COVID-19 infections is putting more and more young people in the hospital.

Dr. Carla Wang-Kocik is one of the doctors rotating through the COVID-19 unit at UT Health East Texas in Tyler. In an interview with KLTV 7 on Friday, July 30, Wang-Kocik said this latest surge in cases looks different than previous waves.

“That’s the one big difference,” she said. “Who we’re getting in the ICU is just not a sick, elderly patient with COVID-19, it’s a young, robust, previously healthy person.”

Carla Wang-Kocik, MD specializes in pulmonology, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine at...
Carla Wang-Kocik, MD specializes in pulmonology, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine at UT Health East Texas.(Blake Holland/KLTV)

According to a UT Health East Texas spokeswoman, the division is seeing hospitalized patients’ ages trending younger compared to previous surges, and a majority of the patients hospitalized are not vaccinated for the virus.

“We never judge why you’re not getting the vaccine,” Wang-Kocik said. “But we do question them. ‘Did you get the vaccine?’ Most of them say ‘no, I was going to go get to it but I never had the time to get to it,’ or, ‘I was too scared to get it but if I could go back in time, I would without a doubt get it because at this point, please do whatever it is to get me out of here.’”

She said they’ve even treated a patient who initially lied about being vaccinated.

“He told the nurses first that he did get a vaccine. And when I went in to see him. I asked him, ‘what type of vaccine did you get?’ He couldn’t answer and he said, ‘you know, I’m so sorry that I had to lie to you guys, I just feel ashamed that I didn’t get it,’ and I told him, ‘we’re not here to judge you.’”

Wang-Kocik said regardless of vaccination status, she and her colleagues fight for their patients. She does, however, hope that by sharing what she sees each day, those still hesitant to get vaccinated will reconsider.

“It rips your heart out,” she said. “We love our patients. We give them our heart, we give them our soul, we fight for them no matter what. But if we could go back in time and just tell them, ‘hey, just take this vaccine, just take it, you’re not going to suffer, or make your family suffer and go through this.’”

Since the start of the pandemic, Wang-Kocik said treatments have come and gone, like blood plasma from recovered patients. These days they’re giving patients things like Remdesivir and steroids at UT Health East Texas, but Wang-Kosik said the drugs are given without truly knowing if they’ll actually help.

“We’re giving it to them and we’re waiting and praying that something is going to make them turn around,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking to see somebody so young, full of life, with family at home, young kids at home, you know, being in this situation when ... when we know this could have been preventable.

Wang-Kocik said she recognizes that breakthrough infections are happening, but said the vaccine is still proving to significantly lower a person’s risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.

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