RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. — A Randolph County 911 dispatcher is in the hospital fighting for his life after testing positive for COVID-19.
His girlfriend who is a nurse said he was unvaccinated and was against getting a vaccine.
Lynn Smith told News 2 she doesn't want others to make the same mistake he did.
"He was fine and healthy at one point, and then the next minute he is on life support," Smith explained.
Joey Thompson is a father and a 911 dispatcher in Randolph County. Smith said her boyfriend started feeling sick the week of Christmas.
"About six or seven days after symptoms started, he had breathing difficulties and got admitted to a local hospital with hypoxia or decreased oxygen," Smith explained.
Smith said he thought he'd be OK, but things quickly got worse.
"Around that time, he was placed on life support and tolerated that well. Then shortly after, he had a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest that required CPR," Smith said.
He recovered from the heart attack, but it wasn't long before he needed maximum ventilator support.
"He is requiring a lot of medications to support him, and he is critically ill," Smith explained. "Still, we know he might lose his life from this. Of course, that is not our hope. We are praying he will pull through, but it's not looking positive at the moment."
Smith wants people to know Thompson was against getting the vaccine.
"He was scared of the vaccine. He was scared of the side effects he was seeing from different age groups, and his thought process was, 'I'm young, I'm healthy, I'm outgoing, I'm active, if I do get it, it'll be minor,'" she said.
She said her boyfriend had a change of heart.
"Three days before, he was put on life support, and he said he made the wrong decision. He wished he would have gotten the vaccine," Smith said.
Now, she's on a mission to use his story as a reason for others who are unvaccinated to get the shot now.
"If you're young, if you're healthy, it doesn't matter. This virus shows no mercy," Smith said.
Unvaccinated hospitalizations are a big issue right now. At the time of this report, 75% of COVID patients at Cone Health are not vaccinated.
Editor's note: Lynn tells News 2 Joey's story is already making a difference. She shared this message with our newsroom on Friday:
"Thank you for sharing Joey's story! I've had two family members get vaccinated this week after living through this with me. I PRAY his story will help save others! I also PRAY that he comes back to me soon! I miss him so much!"
We reached out to the Randolph County Emergency Services about Thompson.
Emergency Services Communications Supervisor, Keena Heaton responded back to us:
Joey has been with Randolph County 9-1-1 for 9 years. He has made a difference in countless lives within our community. Joey has a passion to serve and to help those in need. He has talked hundreds of people through performing CPR, he’s helped many people going through situations involving extreme crisis, and has convinced people in dark places to live on another day. He finds silver linings and stays positive, has been the comic relief when his shift was dealing with something difficult and is always the first person to welcome visitors or new employees to make them feel at home. You can’t meet Joey and not immediately like him. You know within seconds that he is a genuine, kind and thoughtful man. Above all else, Joey is a proud and loving father to his son Caleb.
After knowing him close to 10 years I think of him as family, all of us do. We are staying hopeful and optimistic while keeping him in our thoughts. Right now he is deeply missed in our center.
Thank you to everyone that has reached out to show us support.
The Randolph County Sheriff's Office also sent us a statement:
We are asking our community to pray for Joey Thompson as he battles health issues related to Covid. He is a Telecommunicator with Randolph County Emergency Services. He is “The calm voice on the other end of the radio in the middle of the chaos. He is a true hero to us all, and he is a great man. You got this, brother.”-Dep. Small Hearing his voice on the other end of the radio call is a comfort to first responders across Randolph County.