It was Monica Melkonian’s goal to get the Covid vaccination from J&J. After just one dose, she’d be immune to the infection. As a result, she was overjoyed when the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center vaccination clinic on April 7 had her top choice.
Melkonian, on the other hand, began having headaches and strong discomfort behind her left eye on April 13. Six people developed a rare blood-clotting problem after receiving the J&J vaccine on the same day that federal health officials declared a halt in the use of the vaccine.
The following Saturday, despite her recurring headaches, she and her husband, Stan Thomas, spent the day working around the house. When he works on his motorcycles in their garage, he installed a ceiling fan.
Weeding took up much of her day. This summer, they toured around their property to plan out the tasks that they planned to accomplish. They drank champagne and margaritas and ate strawberry shortcakes in their hot tub till the wee hours of the morning.
There was nothing except the night sky in Central Oregon to keep them company as the moon rose and the stars came out.
As Thomas put it, “We were literally gushing about how fantastic our lives have been and how lucky we were.”.
She died in less than a week.
There are only nine documented cases of vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia in the United States, and the 52-year-old woman’s death was a tragic coincidence.
Even a few days earlier, Thomas believed that his wife would still be alive if he had been informed of the possible negative effects of the medication. It’s his job to share her narrative and preserve her legacy.
Experts in occupational health and safety, as well as pandemic response, were both involved.
Covid vaccinations had a one-in-a-million risk of injury, but it was nothing compared to the dangers of the virus. When it comes to vaccinations, Thomas is adamantly pro-vaccine but worries whether health officials have done enough to educate the public about their immunization options.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data suggests that women between the ages of 30 and 49 are most at risk for developing a condition that killed Melkonian. Instead, Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccinations are now recommended by federal health regulators.
Since the J&J vaccine is likely to be critical in ending this global pandemic, they have decided to leave it on the market.
As a result of Melkonian’s death, we have a better understanding of this decision. The experts who gave that advice saw her case.
Since then, Thomas has made it his mission to make certain that her sacrifice is never forgotten. Humanity is often obscured by the number of risks.
“Who believes it’s going to be you when it’s 8 million doses and two people die from it?” he asked.
‘It’s not happening,’ he said.
While investigating fatalities for the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety department, Melkonian and Thomas became acquainted. In 1996, he served as her mentor, conducting her first round of inspections.
Their friendship blossomed into romance after both of their marriages came to an end, and they wed in 2007. When the pandemic of Covid struck, their work revolved around it. Nonmedical planning was overseen by Thomas, while Melkonian worked for a company that helps businesses keep track of vaccines.
Thomas observed, “From the very beginning, the epidemic was a part of this home.” In the end, “there was no way out.”
A lot of time was spent discussing the upcoming Covid vaccinations and how they differed from previous versions. Each of the three was shown to be effective and safe, with only a small risk of negative side effects. He sought vaccinations based on mRNA. To her, the one-dose J&J vaccine appeared to be the most efficient way to protect herself.
After she had her shot, Thomas told her, “You’ve hit the jackpot,” recalling the moment. “Today is your fortunate day, so you should buy a lottery ticket.”
As it turns out, the lottery was a draw no one wanted to take part in. One in a Million probability that a woman her age would die from the shot.
Once the needle hit her arm, it was a one-way ticket to this place, Thomas added.
As she worked about the house that day, her headaches had mostly subsided. It was a lovely day, and they went to sleep reveling in the glow of it all. Thomas, however, heard Melkonian scream and fall to the ground at 4 a.m. the next morning, April 18.
After a seizure, her right arm was paralyzed and she couldn’t use it. In the event that Thomas had a stroke, the vaccine came to mind right away.
“No! While Thomas was on the phone with the 911 operator, Melkonian screamed, “This isn’t happening to me!”
Waiting for the ambulance they exchanged the kind of words you say when you don’t know what the future has in store for either of you. When the ambulance arrived, she was unable to communicate with the crew members.
Thomas added, “I am sadly grateful for the rapid progression of this.”
Thomas instructed her to grip his palm once for a yes and again for a no as doctors questioned her at the St. Charles Bend emergency department.
“The last thing I spoke to her was that I loved her and requested her to grip my hand twice,” Thomas recalls saying. “She was.”
As soon as she was brought back into the room after the CT scan, she was unable to respond in any manner.
Progress is made quickly.
Hospital neurology specialist Dr. Scott Rewinkel was summoned to treat an elderly patient who was having a seizure. He scanned Melkonian’s CT scan and gave it a thorough examination. On the left side of her frontal lobe, she had had many brain hemorrhages.
For someone her age and overall health, “and that’s a rare spot,” he noted.
Melkonian’s situation had been discussed just a few days previously by Rewinkel and his neurology colleagues at the hospital. Despite the immune system’s destruction of clotting platelets, this illness nevertheless results in brain blood clots in the cerebral venous sinuses. Clotting and bleeding are both present in the patient’s experience.
Just bring her home and she’ll be alright, Thomas thought.
As Thomas put it, “That was my hope: get her back, then rehab, and then we can still go have fun and live our lives.” This hope had vanished by Sunday night.
Doctors were surprised by how quickly her condition deteriorated despite following all of the therapy standards. Her brain hemorrhage grew in size with every CT scan.
They could try one last thing before giving up. Her skull might be opened, allowing the brain to expand beyond its normal bounds. However, her brain had already been severely damaged, and she was sure to suffer long-term consequences. The parts of the brain affected by the bleeding were those linked to language and personality.
What am I going to get in return? As they considered the operation, Thomas recalled asking the doctor. It’s going to be someone in a wheelchair with drool running down her chin who has no idea what she’s looking at from the deck, that’s what I’m receiving back.”
The physicians predicted Melkonian’s death before the end of the week if they didn’t intervene. Any samples of blood or tissue should be taken, and no tests should be conducted to find out what caused this side effect or how to reverse it, Thomas advised them.
A person’s body serves as a container for the soul, but the soul is gone. That’s fine,” Thomas informed them, according to what they said.
Approximately 200 medical professionals gathered in the hospital hallway on April 20th to witness the final push of Melkonian to her death. With her son and brother following them, Thomas walked alongside them.
Once outside the hospital, they lowered the American flag and raised the Donate Life flag beneath it, while inside physicians removed her organs. It was a 40-year-old man who received her liver, right kidney, and left kidney, as well as her heart.
The CDC advisory committee advised lifting the 10-day delay on the J&J vaccine three days after reviewing the data.
Members of the committee felt that taking one of the approved vaccines off the market would hinder vaccination efforts and that the one-dose vaccine offered important benefits for people who might be difficult to bring back for a second shot, or for places where the super-cold storage required for mRNA vaccines might not be available.
A new fact sheet issued by the FDA warned women under the age of 50 about possible negative effects. So that Melkonian’s instance was included in the study by Rewinkel.
“The big conclusion is that the risk is very, very minimal,” Rewinkel stated. “It’s just a game of numbers and statistics.”
The chances of a Covid vaccine causing an adverse reaction are quite low compared to the hazards of the virus, he noted.
The updated data on the J&J vaccination through August 2021 was evaluated by the committee in December. Eight people died because of the clotting issue after over 14 million doses were administered.
In other words, it’s less than 0.06%. Covid’s fatality rate in the United States is 1.2 percent. There was a ninth clotting death, but the death rate didn’t alter significantly.
However, the committee opted not to remove the J&J mRNA vaccine from the market because of the increased supply of vaccinations. Instead, the J&J injection was deemed inferior by the panel to the mRNA vaccinations. Over 18 million J&J shots have been provided in the United States.
“A Hero for Our Time”
Covid was not included as the cause of death on Thomas’s wife’s death certificate when he enquired about FEMA’s assistance program for those who died from Covid. Such restrictions, in Thomas’ opinion, disregard the fact that she died as a result of the epidemic.
When he spoke, he remarked that she was a hero of our day because of the work she accomplished and the way she fulfilled her societal commitments and because she gave her life for it.
That the vaccine hazards weren’t mentioned earlier and more explicitly is also upsetting to Thomas.
They don’t want to communicate the acceptable risk, “he stated. “They don’t spend enough time explaining which vaccinations are appropriate for which age groups.
When vaccination is given to a large number of people, unusual adverse effects are more likely to be discovered and reported. One person who received the J&J vaccination suffered this side effect during clinical testing and survived.
When it comes to vaccinations, Thomas wanted a more nuanced public health message that explained how women ages 30 to 49 were more susceptible to issues from the J&J vaccine. Melkonian’s spouse believes she would have heeded such a warning even if she was many years older than that range.
In some ways, it was a failure, he remarked. “The ability to educate the public correctly was overshadowed by the fear of frightening everyone away from immunizations.”
As of a few weeks following Melkonian’s death, Thomas had not received a flu shot. This friend of his was helping out at the county’s immunization clinic, so he dialed up and spoke with him. He had worked with Deschutes County Search and Rescue for many years and was familiar with her.
The man claimed he told her, “I can’t get a shot where Monica got her shot.” “It’s not safe for me to enter there.”
His first vaccine was scheduled for the formation of a search-and-rescue team. Many of his friends came to show their support. One of them started the day by preparing a meal. They tried to distract him from the situation, but his mind was swamped with conflicting notions.
Because of what I’m going through right now, I’m thinking, “My wife, my best friend, my soulmate is dead.” When people see me, they’ll say, ‘You’re an idiot!”
After her death, he feared that people would question his decision to get vaccinated. “I have pals who refuse to get vaccinated and are at risk of losing their jobs as a result. But look what happened to Monica,” he replied. “But look what happened to Monica.” In their defense, they point to her.
He insisted, however, that he continues to have faith in Covid vaccinations and that his decision was made before the death of his wife. After being vaccinated against Covid, he is now one among more than 200 million American citizens.