Merdina Nangle-Palmer says she didn’t sleep well on Tuesday night. The excitement of getting a COVID-19 vaccine the next day was keeping her awake.
The 64-year-old personal support worker and chief steward at Parkview Nursing Centre said she received an email on Tuesday asking her if she wanted to be in the first group of people receiving the first batch of local vaccines.
“COVID has been bad and it’s been hitting long-term care, and I believe as long-term care workers we should [get the vaccine], so when I heard, I was really excited,” Nangle-Palmer said on Wednesday morning as her shift started.
“It was an early Christmas gift for me.”
She left her Stoney Creek home at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and drove to work. She and some 30 others started filling out paperwork to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. After some waiting and screening questions, participants put on a clean mask and made the walk toward a room full of cubicles-turned-immunization stations.
Nangle-Palmer sat in an office chair across from her administrator and a fellow nurse, both of whom were also bracing for the shot.
And then the needle poked through the skin on Nangle-Palmer’s left arm. She became the first person in the city to be vaccinated.
WATCH | Merdina Nangle-Palmer gets the COVID-19 vaccine
“As soon as the needle goes in, I hear all the clapping,” she said. “I didn’t realize I was the first.”
She said it felt just like an ordinary vaccine — but she realizes it’s an extraordinary moment and sign of hope during a bleak pandemic that has stretched on for more than nine months. The vaccine shot is more like an adrenaline shot for many of the front-line health-care workers who have been burned out.
“They’re hoping this vaccine works so they can go back to a normal life … a lot of them are so stressed and working short-staffed and people are dying in their hands,” Nangle-Palmer said. “Working short-staffed is one thing. Having your resident die in your hands right before you without family is devastating.”
‘We have to protect the people’
Nangle-Palmer also said she and her family prayed the vaccination would go smoothly.
“And so far so good. I didn’t even feel it … nothing happened. I went to bed, woke up this morning, the birds were chirping and here I am at work, ready to go.”
Now her colleagues joke she’s the nursing centre’s local movie star after being in the news. But Nangle-Palmer, who has been in nursing for three decades, isn’t focused on herself. She said she’s thinking about her son, two grandsons and her residents — and also, other long-term care workers waiting for a vaccination.
“I would tell any long-term care worker, don’t be afraid [of the vaccine]. We have to protect the people we work for. They could be our mother and grandmother, so it’s our responsibility to take care of them.”