The life and tragic death of John Eyers – a fitness fanatic who refused the vaccine

1 month ago 203

It was 1 of those rare, astir magical, summertime evenings. Warm capable to beryllium extracurricular successful a T-shirt, listening to birdsong; lukewarm capable to enactment retired late, savouring a meal; lukewarm capable not to announcement nighttime settling in, the visitant that slipped into the enactment unannounced.

It was 11 June 2021. Jenny McCann sat successful the plot of her location successful northbound London with her duplicate brother, John Eyers, their parents, Lyn and Derek, and Jenny’s hubby and children. It was her son’s 10th day party. John and their parents had travel down from Southport successful Merseyside for the play to celebrate. Jenny made Lebanese lamb and parathas. The adults were buzzed connected wine, the kids connected day cake. “Life felt truly good,” says Jenny.

She can’t retrieve however the statement astir the Covid vaccine started. “John started saying truly brainsick things that didn’t marque sense,” she says. “About however radical were lone getting the vaccine for escaped McDonald’s, and determination was formaldehyde successful it.” The remainder of the household remonstrated with him, pulling retired their phones to factcheck what helium was saying. But John was unmoving. “He kept saying: ‘I won’t beryllium a guinea pig.’”

The past  household  photograph  taken with John, successful  June. (Left to right) Jenny’s husband, Amit; Jenny; the twins’ father, Derek; John; their mother, Lyn; and Jenny and Amit’s children, Maya and Seb.
The past household photograph taken with John, successful June: (left to right) Jenny’s husband, Amit; Jenny; the twins’ father, Derek; John; their mother, Lyn; and Jenny and Amit’s children, Maya and Seb. Photograph: Courtesy of Jenny McCann

Eventually, helium made a gag and changed the taxable – that was his mode of defusing tension. “He would marque a gag astir everything,” says Jenny, who is 43 and works arsenic an operations manager.

Argument aside, it was a large get-together. “John was connected truly good, comic form,” says Jenny. They went for meal astatine a Turkish edifice and played darts successful the garden. John scored a bullseye with his eyes closed and bragged astir it each weekend. There was lone 1 different hard moment, erstwhile the household went to a section wellness club. John refused to deterioration a mask. The twins had a combat successful reception.

“I said: ‘John, enactment your look disguise on,’” Jenny remembers. “‘He said: ‘You aren’t my parent – don’t archer maine what to do.’” John yet acquiesced, past made different casual joke. They went swimming and played tennis and forgot astir it.

A cleanable weekend, then. Twins enjoying each other’s institution aft the enforced separation of the pandemic. Neither had immoderate thought it would beryllium their past clip together.

John and Jenny were calved successful Southport successful 1978. As children, they were diametrically opposed. Jenny was a bookish goody two-shoes; John was mischievous, bully astatine athletics and uninterested successful school.

Despite their differences, they shared a formidable bond. “When we were precise young, we were shadows of each other,” says Jenny. Into adulthood, she ever knew erstwhile her member was lying – similar the clip helium told their parent helium wounded his enarthrosis tripping implicit a witch connected Halloween. (He had been knocked disconnected his motorcycle by a lorry.) “He didn’t privation Mum to worry,” she says.

Jenny near location astatine 18 to spell to university, leaving her member behind. He worked successful their parents’ carpet concern for a while, but didn’t bask it, past joined the erotic creation troupe the Chippendales, performing each implicit Europe. “He had piercings successful places you don’t privation to cognize astir your member having piercings in,” Jenny shudders.

Jenny McCann
‘When we were precise young, we were shadows of each other’ ... John’s sister, Jenny. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Around this time, helium had a child, Macey, who is present 19. The narration with her parent didn’t enactment out, but John was a committed and loving father. His stripping days over, helium returned to Southport and began moving arsenic a merchandise specializer successful the flooring industry. He worked to support the lights on, but athletics was his large thing. John had ever been a talented athlete.

“He would bash thing and get obsessed with it,” Jenny says. In his teens, helium was a champion pole-vaulter and hockey player. In adulthood, helium went done phases. He got into triathlons for a while, past bodybuilding competitions, past upland climbing. He was a fixture astatine his section gym, which is wherever helium met his champion friend, Jonathan Cohen, 37, a chartered surveyor. “He’d spot maine successful the gym with a acceptable of weights and it was a earthy progression from there,” says Jonathan. “Suddenly, we were going retired each play together.”

John’s dedication to fittingness was thing to behold. “He truly pushed his assemblage to the limit,” says Jonathan. John would beryllium successful the gym astir mornings astatine 6am. On a vacation to Marbella successful May 2016, John kept getting stopped by different men connected the formation – they wanted to cognize his grooming regimen. Jonathan cropped John retired of their vacation photos. “I wasn’t having a photograph stood adjacent to him with his six-pack,” helium laughs. “No! Not having that.”

John was gregarious and fun-loving. “He was a societal butterfly,” Jenny says. “He liked being out, moving a room, being charismatic and laughing and joking. He was a large piss-taker – he’d insult you, but successful a comic way, truthful you ended up laughing.” From his archetypal girlfriend, astatine 10, John was a serial monogamist, prone to the unusual expansive gesture; helium erstwhile projected to a woman astatine a festive grotto portion dressed arsenic Santa. “He was an aged romantic,” says Jenny. “He truly wanted the happily-ever-after.” (That narration didn’t enactment retired and John ne'er married.)

From January onwards, John struggled with his intelligence health. Covid restrictions weighed heavy connected him. He hated not being capable to spell to the gym, hated not being capable to spell climbing, hated not seeing his friends. He lived alone, having breached up with a woman astatine Christmas, and was lonely. He confided successful his sister. “I was truly disquieted astir him,” Jenny says. “He was successful a atrocious place. I had to telephone him each time to marque definite helium was OK.” Their grandma died successful March. When Jenny saw him astatine the funeral, she was horrified. “He’d mislaid truthful overmuch weight,” she says.

Jonathan thinks this is, successful part, what drove his friend’s Covid scepticism. “He was frustrated astatine the mode helium couldn’t spell and bash mean things,” helium says. “He didn’t privation different lockdown, oregon to beryllium successful a concern wherever helium wasn’t capable to spell and spot people.” John felt that Covid was real, but that it had been dramatically overstated by the authorities. Nobody helium knew successful Southport had contracted Covid. If helium got the virus, helium would beryllium fine. “It got to the constituent wherever helium refused to deterioration a disguise astatine all,” says Jenny.

John Eyers and Jonathan Cohen successful  Marbella
John and Jonathan Cohen, his champion friend, successful Marbella. Photograph: Courtesy of Jenny McCann

Many of the radical successful his beingness tried to reason with him. “I would archer him: ‘Why won’t you get the jab? You’ll request it if you privation to spell distant connected holiday,’” says Jonathan. “He kept saying that helium wanted to wait. It wasn’t that helium would ne'er get it. But it was much the misinformation, really. For immoderate reason, helium would not perceive to immoderate connection was coming retired of the government. I’d accidental to him: ‘John, wherefore are you listening to that rubbish?’”

John was a instrumentality of the pearlescent-toothed Tony Robbins, whose marque of adrenalised motivational speaking has earned him an estimated luck of $500m (£375m), positive a backstage land successful Fiji and celebrity fans including Serena Williams and Hugh Jackman. Robbins, portion steering wide of outright anti-vaccine statements, has made comments passim the pandemic that play down the severity of Covid, oregon connote that lockdown restrictions are overblown. (Confusingly, helium has besides touted a Covid vaccine that is being developed by Covaxx, a institution that has received backing from a task superior steadfast successful which Robbins is simply a partner. He has made nary secret of that fiscal interest.)

In September 2020, Robbins posted a link to an nonfiction by the Kremlin-funded quality tract RT that said lockdowns “achieved astir precisely thing with respect to Covid. No deaths were prevented”. In September 2021, helium appeared astatine a league successful Florida wherever helium mocked Australia’s Covid restrictions, formed uncertainty connected the efficacy of vaccines and told a cheering assemblage not to fto “fear beryllium the happening that controls you”.

“John mentioned to maine erstwhile that 1 of his beliefs was that we shouldn’t unrecorded successful a clime of fearfulness astir Covid,” says Jenny. “If you were young and acceptable and well, you’d beryllium fine.”

In this assumption, John wasn’t wholly wrong. He was extremely improbable to dice from Covid, arsenic a physically acceptable 42-year-old with nary underlying conditions. The Covid mortality complaint for a 40-year-old with nary underlying wellness conditions is about 1 successful each 1,490 radical infected.

But his calculus erstwhile it came to knowing the risk-to-benefit ratio of Covid vaccination was off. If infected, idiosyncratic who is unvaccinated is 32 times much apt to die of Covid than idiosyncratic who has been vaccinated. While vaccination carries a hazard of side-effects, this hazard is acold smaller than the hazard of being unvaccinated during a pandemic. Out of 46.3 cardinal fully vaccinated people successful the UK, 77 person died of humor clots thought to beryllium related to a Covid vaccine.

“There is simply a immense asymmetry with risk,” says Dr Tom Stafford, a science lecturer astatine the University of Sheffield. “If you tin get distant with things that are debased probability, you don’t cognize however unsafe they are until it’s excessively late.” Stafford uses the illustration of driving without a seatbelt: astir of the time, you volition beryllium perfectly fine. But the 1 clip you are in an accident, things mightiness get precise atrocious precise quickly.

John Eyers went done  a bodybuilding phase, among different   fittingness  obsessions
John went done a bodybuilding phase, among different fittingness obsessions. Photograph: Courtesy of Jenny McCann

“It’s the aforesaid with the vaccine,” says Stafford. “It’s a low-probability lawsuit that you volition get the microorganism and request hospitalisation. But if you do, past the vaccine shows its benefit.”

Stafford says that decisions astir vaccination, peculiarly for Covid, are immoderate of the hardest that radical person to make. “Risk calculus tin beryllium peculiarly hard successful definite circumstances,” helium says. “Risks wherever we don’t ever spot the outcome, truthful we person to spot people. And caller risks. Coronavirus is some of those things.”

But wherefore would idiosyncratic specified arsenic John beryllium inclined to instrumentality his accusation astir the pandemic from societal media influencers alternatively than technological experts?

In 2009, Stafford co-authored a paper that surveyed radical who lived connected brownfield sites that mightiness person been contaminated with pollutants. The survey asked the residents whom they trusted to archer them astir the risks associated with surviving connected the land. While astir of the radical trusted scientists to archer them the truth, they were almost as apt to instrumentality their accusation from household and friends, contempt their full deficiency of expertise. “It wasn’t that they didn’t spot the expertise of the scientists,” Stafford says. “They knew that scientists knew astir pollution. They conscionable thought that the scientists didn’t person their interests astatine heart, whereas they knew that household and friends did.”

The net replicates this cardinal quality impulse – to spot household and friends astir arsenic overmuch arsenic we spot experts – astatine scale. “We consciousness a transportation to the radical who are telling america things successful a mode that we don’t consciousness a transportation to the Centers for Disease Control oregon the Joint Council connected Vaccination and Immunisation,” Stafford says.

In the property of societal media, we don’t adjacent request to person met the radical we spot arsenic overmuch arsenic established experts. “That’s wherefore societal media is truthful dangerous,” says Stafford. “Because radical stock that affectional transportation with influencers they mightiness ne'er person met. But it’s an asymmetrical intimacy. I whitethorn deliberation I cognize that vlogger and they are talking to me. But truly they’re talking to millions of radical – and the advertisers generating them their revenue.”

The falsehoods that John repeated to his household and friends successful the months starring up to his decease are communal tropes successful online anti-vaccine spaces and casual to find: the vaccine has unsafe levels of formaldehyde successful it; the vaccine is experimental; radical are lone getting the vaccine for escaped McDonald’s.

“The champion happening that radical tin bash is realise that societal media platforms are fundamentally unsafe environments to summation facts astir a pandemic that mightiness termination you,” says Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “Social media contains immense amounts of misinformation that mingles seamlessly with bully information. The misinformation mightiness termination you.”

John was a dense idiosyncratic of societal media. “He was what I’d telephone a Facebook ranter,” says Jenny. Occasionally, she would situation him connected the contented of his posts astir Covid. When helium was astatine her house, Jenny told him disconnected for spending excessively overmuch clip connected his phone. “He wouldn’t enactment his telephone down,” she says.

Ahmed is scathing astir the societal media companies that nett from misinformation. “They don’t privation you to find the truth,” helium says. “They privation you to support scrolling. If you find the truth, you don’t request to scroll immoderate more. They privation you to support scrolling and arguing and looking for much bullshit.”

John tested affirmative for Covid connected 29 June. By 3 July, helium was earnestly unwell. Amy, the pistillate who had precocious go his girlfriend, had to unit him to telephone 111 for help. Later that day, helium was taken to Southport & Ormskirk infirmary by ambulance.

Jonathan texted his person arsenic soon arsenic helium heard the news. “He said that helium couldn’t type, but that helium was successful infirmary with pneumonia,” helium remembers. “He wouldn’t admit astatine that constituent that it was Covid.”

John had a raging somesthesia and trouble breathing. Doctors enactment him connected a Cpap machine, to assistance his breathing, and swathed him successful cooling blankets. On 4 July, John was up each nighttime vomiting blood. He sent Jonathan a dependable enactment the adjacent morning.

“It is the worst dependable enactment I person ever heard successful my life,” says Jonathan. “I burst retired crying halfway done it.” The dependable enactment is simply a infinitesimal and a fractional long. In that time, John speaks astir 12 words. “I volition ne'er nonstop it to anyone, but if anyone questioned whether Covid is real, I would play it to them,” says Jonathan. “It is the worst happening successful the world. I tin perceive the fearfulness successful him. He is virtually gasping for air. This is idiosyncratic I knew who could tally 10k oregon ascent a upland without struggling.”

John successful  intensive care.
John successful intensive care. Photograph: Courtesy of Jenny McCann

On 6 July, Jenny was successful the supermarket erstwhile a feeling of large panic settled upon her. “I conscionable had this feeling that thing wasn’t close with John,” she says. She near without doing her shopping. That afternoon, she got the telephone call. John was successful the ICU. She instantly got a bid to Southport, sobbing the full way.

By 11 July, John needed to spell connected a ventilator. Jenny spoke to him connected the telephone earlier helium was sedated. She told him she loved him. He couldn’t respond, but helium texted her: “Don’t fto them springiness up connected me.” It was the past connection she received from her twin.

On the greeting of 27 July, John’s household got the telephone they had been dreading. He was dying; they should travel successful close away. They raced to the hospital, but John had stabilised by the clip they arrived. Staff told them to spell location and said they would telephone backmost if determination was immoderate change.

About an hr later, the infirmary called back. The household piled into the car and started driving to the infirmary astatine apical speed. Nurses kept calling, telling them to hurry. They raced to the ICU, wherever unit were waiting with PPE. Jenny could perceive the alarms going disconnected successful her brother’s room. “I couldn’t halt shaking,” she says. “It felt similar a monster was astir to travel retired of my rima and I couldn’t power it.”

When they had yet tugged connected the PPE, they ran into his room. It was afloat of ICU staff, each successful tears. John had conscionable died. Jenny’s stepdad collapsed to the floor. Her mum was wailing. “The matron grabbed my mum and was holding her,” says Jenny. “Everyone was crying. The advisor was crying. All the unit were crying. Because helium was truthful young. And they couldn’t prevention him.”

How bash you explicate however a supremely acceptable 42-year-old antheral died of a illness typically thought to afflict older radical oregon those with underlying conditions?

“Genetics makes the astir sense,” says Dr Guillaume Butler-Laporte, a familial epidemiologist astatine McGill University. Butler‑Laporte is portion of a planetary probe programme to analyse the genomes of much than 100,000 radical with Covid, successful an effort to recognize wherefore immoderate radical are much severely affected than others.

When helium began his probe successful March 2020, Butler-Laporte “did not expect to find much”, helium says. “We thought Covid would impact everyone, but beryllium worse for aged radical and not arsenic atrocious for young people. But arsenic we included much patients, we saw a wide communicative develop. It was surprising.”

Butler-Laporte and his colleagues recovered that radical with variants successful up to a twelve locations connected the quality genome were astatine higher hazard of processing terrible Covid, should they beryllium unfortunate capable to beryllium infected with the virus. People with variants connected the chromosome 3 portion unsocial were up to doubly arsenic likely to make terrible Covid arsenic idiosyncratic without that familial mutation. Chromosome 3 mutations are carried successful astir 10% of radical of European ancestry, meaning that specified radical person a 10% accidental of being doubly arsenic susceptible to terrible Covid infection.

John Eyers was a keen mountaineer
John was a keen mountaineer. Photograph: Courtesy of Jenny McCann

“There is nary question determination is simply a familial underpinning to this,” says Butler-Laporte. “As to whether genetics is much important than different factors, similar age, I wouldn’t privation to comment. But it is wide that determination are different determinants of terrible illness and genetics is 1 of them.” He is astir definite that John fits the illustration of idiosyncratic with a familial saltation that made him much susceptible to terrible Covid. “It’s intolerable to cognize specifically what genes helium carried, but it’s precise apt helium carried this familial predisposition,” says Butler-Laporte.

Unbeknown to John, his assemblage was primed to respond with maximum unit to the Covid virus. When helium was unfortunate capable to respire successful infected aerial carrying infinitesimally tiny microorganism particles, his assemblage gradually failed.

“Had helium been vaccinated, the champion lawsuit would person been that helium developed sterilising immunity, meaning that, erstwhile the microorganism landed successful his nostrils, it got picked up by antibodies and ne'er acceptable up an infection,” says Dr Tom Lawton, an intensive attraction doctor. “If he’d had a little level of immunity from the vaccine, helium would person had non-sterilising immunity, meaning that the microorganism did commencement to infect cells, but his assemblage fought it and was capable to wide retired the microorganism earlier it ramped up rapidly.” But John was not vaccinated.

The Covid microorganism infected his cells, replicating successful his body. He yet managed to expunge the microorganism – but past his immune strategy went into overdrive. “The microorganism seems to acceptable thing up successful the assemblage and the harm comes from there,” says Lawton. “It wouldn’t person happened had the microorganism not been there.”

First, his lungs were affected. “There volition person been humor clots forming, arsenic good arsenic a thickening of the membrane that separates the aerial and the humor successful his lungs,” says Lawton. As a result, the humor couldn’t transportation capable oxygen to John’s organs.

Doctors treated him with steroids, to damp down his immune response. But these immune suppressants made John susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. He developed infections successful his lungs. His liver and kidneys began to malfunction, causing discarded products to physique up successful his blood.

Doctors enactment John connected dialysis to wide retired the toxins, but by this constituent galore of his organs were failing and helium had unsurvivably debased oxygen levels. He expended an inconceivably immense metabolic effort to enactment alive. “Although it looks similar idiosyncratic is conscionable lying determination asleep, the magnitude of enactment they’re doing is truly impressive,” says Lawton. He compares it to walking a marathon for each time the diligent is hospitalised.

Eventually, John exhausted his physiological reserve. His assemblage was oxygen-deprived and wrung out. His bosom stopped beating and helium died.

Before helium died, John told the doc treating him however overmuch helium regretted not getting the vaccine. “The doc said that helium was beating himself up truthful overmuch earlier they enactment him connected the ventilator,” Jenny says. “He was saying: ‘Why didn’t I get vaccinated? Why didn’t I bash it? Why didn’t I listen?’”

It is for this crushed that his household has agreed to stock his story. “He astir apt wouldn’t beryllium dormant if he’d had the vaccine,” says Jenny. “It’s truly rather simple. He made a atrocious decision. We each marque atrocious decisions each the time. And helium paid the eventual terms for it. Which is truthful unfair.”

Jenny says she “just wants radical to beryllium vaccinated and, if they person doubts, to get aesculapian proposal – not proposal from the internet. And to realise that Covid is brutal. It’s conscionable brutal.”

She is struggling to accommodate to beingness without her brother. “I don’t cognize that it volition ever consciousness real,” she says. “How tin my healthy, outgoing, silly member beryllium dead? It doesn’t marque consciousness successful my brain. How tin I beryllium a duplicate without a twin?”

At John’s funeral, connected 16 August, Jonathan delivered a eulogy. He spoke astir that vacation successful Marbella successful 2016. They spent a time drinking champagne astatine a formation club, laughing, messing around. As the prima set, a rainbow formed implicit the sea.

This is however Jonathan likes to retrieve John. They are sunburned, drunk, a small unsteady connected their feet. Suffused with emotion for each other. The nighttime is drafting successful and Jonathan turns to his champion person and says: shall we transportation on? And John says: of course.