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Former Alabama football player uses his story to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19

After 39 days on a ventilator due to COVID-19, Justin Moon, 36, woke up with a hole in his throat, unable to talk, walk or move.
Credit: UAB
Former Alabama Crimson Tide football player Justin Moon uses his COVID experience to urge others to get vaccinated.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After 39 days on a ventilator due to COVID-19, Justin Moon, 36, woke up with a hole in his throat, unable to talk, walk or move. All he could do was blink.  

Moon, a Tuscaloosa resident and former University of Alabama football player, was admitted to his local hospital with COVID-19 on July 21, 2021. Days later, he was placed on a ventilator and transported to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Moon spent 79 days in the hospital, with most of those days at UAB Hospital. He is currently on the road to recovery, regaining his strength and learning how to walk, stand up and use his right arm again after experiencing nerve damage.  

“During those six weeks on the ventilator, I had no idea that I was fighting for my life,” Justin Moon said. “There’s only one other step beyond where I was at, and that’s cremation or going in your box. I actually died for four minutes, and they shocked me and brought me back. It’s a complete miracle that God saved me. Not too many people get a second chance at life.” 

Inspiring others

After a long and difficult battle with the virus, Justin and his wife, Mel Moon, have used their story to encourage their network of friends, family and colleagues to get vaccinated through texts, emails and face-to-face conversations. To date, Justin’s family members and his employer have used his story to inspire at least 250 people to get vaccinated.   

Prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19, Justin and his wife openly discussed their hesitation of getting the vaccine due to the spread of misinformation surrounding the shot. After the second surge hit, they decided it was time to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, their decision came too late. Just days before they were scheduled to get their first dose, both were diagnosed with COVID-19. It was then that the Moons began to face one of the most difficult situations they had ever faced.  

“We were unsure of the vaccine, and we were wrong,” Justin Moon said. “My situation did not have to be like this. If I had not been unsure of the vaccine and got vaccinated, it would have probably gone like a lot of other stories. ... I would have had a headache, shortness of breath and just laid on the couch for a few days.” 

Watch Justin Moon's story:

COVID takes its toll

Moon has been an athlete his entire life and was relatively healthy with no underlying health conditions prior to his diagnosis. The severity of the virus quickly progressed, and at one point during his hospital stay, his family was told to prepare to say goodbye. 

“Sometimes I would video chat him just to make sure he was breathing,” Mel Moon said. “I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. I look at him now, and I honestly can’t believe that I am here talking to him.”

The Moons have made it their mission to openly share the realities of the virus and the impact it is continuing to make on their lives today in hopes of helping others. 

“If just 10 people do not have to walk through this, then that is 10 less people that have to go through what we have gone through,” Mel Moon said. “That was our goal through all of this. ... We don’t want anyone to have to go through what we have gone through, and that is the lesson we learned. Don’t stand still; do your homework. Don’t listen to the wrong sources. Talk to your physician and your family, and make the best decision for you.” 

COVID does not care

“Unfortunately, one thing that we have noticed during this pandemic is that COVID does not care,” said Brent Patterson, Special Care Unit Rehabilitation Team Lead and one of Justin’s physical therapists. “We have seen it in doctors, nurses, children, parents, and grandparents. We have even seen young people become truly debilitated because of COVID. Our mission as a team has been to help patients regain their health and get them back to their daily lives sooner.” 

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