Normally, we are surrounded by family, laughing, making cookies, unwrapping gifts, loving on nieces and nephews, and listening to stories from mom, dad, and grandma Jane. The house is usually warm, loud, and full of love. This Christmas was spent with just the two of us. My husband and I made the best of our holiday together, reflecting on our blessings, and missing those we cherish most. Instead of playing games, watching football, and eating a feast with the family, we FaceTimed with those we miss most. We are fortunate to have the ability to see them and hear their voices, however, it just wasn’t the same. We missed sharing our home, feeling their hugs, snuggling up on the couch together, and the warmth of being close to our family.
While changing traditions this year was hard, I know there are people here in our community who are facing much greater difficulties because of how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. I see these challenges every single day in my role on the frontlines of fighting this pandemic as Director of the ICU and Respiratory Therapy at Haywood Regional Medical Center (HRMC).
That’s why I’m excited and proud to be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I know many people have questions or concerns about the vaccine — I did too, at first. However, after talking to other clinicians I know and trust, reviewing the facts and being tired of missing so much in 2020, I feel very confident in my decision to get vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous process to gain authorization that all vaccines available in the United States have gone through — no steps were skipped, and no corners were cut. Researchers anticipate that the vaccine will be approximately 95% effective. This is significantly higher than other common (and important) vaccines like the flu vaccine, which is typically between 40-60% effective.
You’ve probably heard about the potential side effects, which can include pain at the injection site and sometimes headaches, muscle pain, body aches, fatigue or fever. I personally didn’t experience any significant side effects. I can tell you from personal experience serving patients and families every day during this crisis that these potential side effects pale in comparison to the challenges that come with a serious case of COVID-19.
Our story is a little unique. Both my mother and father are immunocompromised. My father recently received a kidney transplant, and in August of 2020 my mother was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive, fast moving cancer called leiomyosarcoma. Because of my potential exposure to COVID in the workplace, and my inability to quarantine, I can’t put my family at risk to exposure by having close contact with them. As heartbreaking as that is, I know that I was called to be a nurse and have a responsibility to take care of this community.
For me, I chose to vaccinate in hopes that it will allow me the ability to safely see my family again. For me, receiving the vaccine was an easy choice. Based on the research, the vaccination is safe, effective, and has the potential to save countless lives. I feel like it is my best chance to get back to my “normal.” The opportunity to take care of our patients, protect the people around me, especially those at increased risk, was priceless.
With the COVID-19 vaccine, I believe we are on the right path toward reaching an end to the pandemic and returning to normal life – but it is going to take all of us doing our part by choosing to get vaccinated, continuing to wear masks, maintaining social distancing and practicing hand hygiene until the vaccination is widely administered. I want to encourage every member of our community to step up and be a vaccine hero once it is available to you. Do it for your family, your friends, yourself – and all of us at HRMC.
While there is much that we all missed last year because of the pandemic, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this community, and I will continue to do my part to help ensure that brighter days are ahead in 2021.