Allegra Gatti Zemel is a Westport mom of 3, and a registered nurse. Her current task: administering the coronavirus vaccine at Griffin Health Shelton Vaccine Center.
Earlier this week, she wrote:
The clinic was pretty slow today. It was snowing, then raining, then sleeting— the kind of weather no one wants to go out in, let alone seniors. That’s the population presently eligible to get the COVID vaccine.
So I only vaccinated 22 people today, during my shift from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There were a lot of birthdays in the 1930s and ’40s — veterans, retired teachers, parents whose grown children had navigated VAMS (with multiple attempts) and made the appointments for them.
There was an old couple who got their vaccines together, side by side. He spoke for her until we realized she could nod to answer my yes-or-no screening questions despite her voice box.
There was a man 3 weeks out from triple bypass surgery. He was thrilled to still be alive, and did not stop sharing that.
There was an alternative-looking younger fellow who seemed to have some emotional issues. He was getting vaccinated, because he cares daily for a 20-year-old with severe autism.
There was an old Italian woman from Calabria. She was tiny, with giant hands, and explained she needs her arms to not be sore for her second job: making pizza.
There was an older Turkish woman brought in by her 2 grown daughters. They translated. and said she was very nervous.
It’s really not a bad injection at all, I explained — no worse than a flu shot. But when I gently hit her bone and quickly pulled back a little, I realized she’d probably had unpleasant vaccinations in her skinny arm in the past. I’d be nervous too. She left, relieved and fine.
There was another daughter bringing in her Puerto Rican mother. Their eyes looked similar, gleaming over their masks.
And there was a son who encouraged his father to ask again for his blood pressure to be taken before the vaccine, since he reported feeling a little light- headed that morning and they did it last time, remember?
He was stable, good to go. His second vaccine is now in the books.
I’m in awe of the children who dote on their aging parents, and of the trust between generations.
I’m also in awe of the aging parents who still have a lot of spunk, and are well informed. They accept help, but still call their own shots — right arm, or left?
They are all gushingly grateful to me, especially when I confirm with them it wasn’t that bad, right? I hand them their vaccination card, bringing them another step closer to escaping the death sentence this virus can be.
The best today though, was the old man, born in 1937 — the same year as my dad. He hustled over to my station in the corner with his cane. “When a beautiful young woman waves you over, you don’t waste any time getting there,” he said as he lowered himself into the hard plastic chairs.
He greeted me with, “why did the teddy bear stop eating his dinner?”’
“Hmmmm,” I said. “Why?”
“He was stuffed!” he said, a smile escaping his mask through old glossy eyes.
I asked him why the square went for a jog. He thought earnestly for quite a few seconds, while I looked up his appointment and verifiers
“Why?” he said.
“He wanted to stay in shape!”
He chuckled. We went back and forth like that for the 7 minutes he spent at my station, before I told him one last riddle: my favorite, for some reason.
While he put his arm back in his shirt and grabbed his jacket, I asked, “what did the ocean say to the sound?”
“Nothing. It just waved!”
He gave me a knowing wave, then shuffled over to the next room for observation, an innocent and wise old grin on his face.
(Hat tip: Amy Saperstein)