COVID Vaccine: One Nurse’s View

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.

Allegra Gatti Zemel, RN

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.

Hartford Healthcare’s Keith Grant was among the first in Connecticut to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in December. Governor Ned Lamont looked on.

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)

18 responses to “COVID Vaccine: One Nurse’s View

  1. Sweet and lovely.

  2. ‘Love this, Dan! I’m sure I’ll think of this when we finally get vaccinated…definitely some kind words, thanks (and jokes?) for the healthcare workers!

  3. Thank you for that uplifting perspective on humanity! So refreshing in this climate of negativity we all are experiencing.

  4. God Bless you and All nurses giving their life saving care!

  5. Sandra Rothenberg

    Lovely sweet story. Thank you to all the nurses & healthcare workers!

  6. What a terrific post! Thank you so much; it was a great way to start the day. I had my first vaccine yesterday and saw some of these same folks there 😊 Thank you to Allegra and all the wonderful healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep us safe and smiling under our masks!

  7. How delightful! Allegra, thank you for sharing your thoughtful observations with such genuine care, humor and hope! And, Dan, thank you for posting; your blog opens us to perspectives and experiences we might not otherwise see.

  8. What a beautiful share today- thank you!

  9. Wonderful post. A huge thank you to all our first responders out there every day, no matter what the weather is or their responsibilities at home. About the last gentleman, born in 1937, hustling over with a great sense of humor. I can’t resist adding I’m married to one born in 1936. “Mine” doesn’t need a cane and still trims his own trees and does have a great sense of humor. It helps in trying times to smile. Thank you everyone for being out there for us and thank you Dan for the uplifting report.

  10. This post made my day. I thank Allegra and all first responders for their tireless efforts and loving concern for their patients.

  11. Wonderful written piece by Allegra and thanks you for sharing!

  12. Thank God for people like her. This takes the “sting” out of the experience

  13. Thank you for this amazing story. so uplifting!

  14. Reading about the Turkish woman whose bone was touched by the needle reminded me of my own experience. Six years ago, I had an adverse reaction to a flu shot. My doctor believed it was caused by improper administration, perhaps because the syringe needle was not at 90 degrees to my arm. He suggested that all future injections be done in my thigh by a medical professional. I have had no problems since then and last month I had my first Covid shot, wearing summer shorts in freezing weather. My second shot is next week And I hope it won’t be so cold!

  15. Wonderful uplifting story. Seniors are the best, every day is a gift and attitude is everything. Reminds me of an Abbey Road line, “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Glad to be a new club member.

  16. I have been volunteering as a nurse at vaccine clinics and my experience is much like Allegra’s. Almost to a person those receiving the vaccine have been polite and very grateful. It’s a happy place to be. But I also remember that I met two different people, both quite elderly, who had lost their spouse to this awful virus. It was so sad. I wanted to hug each of them, but I couldn’t.

  17. Stephanie Halpern

    Love this piece so much. What a gifted writer you are with such a beautiful spirit and perspective.

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