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DENVER (KDVR) — Health officials are urging Coloradans to get the vaccine now, with more than 95% of new cases in the current surge attributed to the delta variant.

Dr. Joseph Forrester, a pulmonologist at the Medical Center of Aurora, is among those encouraging vaccination, and he’s using images to convince Coloradans of the toll COVID-19 can take on the lungs.

Chest X-rays of a person diagnosed with severe COVID-19 are noticeably different than x-rays from a healthy person.

Dr. Joseph Forrester, a pulmonologist at the Medical Center of Aurora, showed a comparison of healthy lungs (left) to lungs impacted by COVID-19 (right). (KDVR)

“Anything that is air looks black. Anything denser than air looks whitish. It’s a big difference when you look at the X-rays,” Forrester said.

‘Like an elephant sitting on my chest’

Don Van Gilder knows what it’s like to have lungs filled with fluid because of COVID-19.

“It felt like an elephant sitting on my chest. It was not pleasant. The chest pains were so bad I was worried I might be having a heart attack,” Van Gilder said.

Van Gilder spent five days in the hospital primarily because of a reaction to the steroids he was taking because of COVID. But he said the days leading up to that hospital stay were even worse.

“Days nine, 10 and 11 felt like the three worst days of my life,” he said.

Van Gilder says he barely moved for days.

“I alternated between praying I would live or that I would just die and be done with it,” Van Gilder said.

Trying to reach the unvaccinated

Van Gilder, a U.S. Navy veteran, ultimately survived the never-ending aches, pains, fevers and brain fog. He’s since written extensively about his close call on social media, hoping to get to others about his COVID-19 experience.

“I was hardly sleeping. It was Godawful,” he said.

Back at the Medical Center of Aurora, Forrester is also sharing what he’s seen, hoping that if his words won’t convince someone to get the vaccine, maybe images of COVID lungs will.

“My concern is just how important this vaccine is to prevent delta or perhaps the next Delta,” he said.