On a cold morning in December, I donned a face mask and sat down with a group of volunteer nurses at a training and vaccination site. It felt surreal to be in a room of people for the first time since March of last year, but as I gathered my paperwork, I knew I was doing the right thing.
Our local health department in southeastern Michigan had put out a call for volunteer nurses to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Although I keep my nursing license active, I haven’t practiced in well over six years, since having my fourth baby. After months of doing my part at home, I was excited to have the chance to be part of a larger solution in a more tangible way.
Ironically, I’d come across the call for volunteers while isolating in my bedroom with my own suspected case of COVID-19. After navigating a full 40 days of fever, body aches, nausea, headaches, exhaustion unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, dry cough, night sweats and tachycardia, I swore if there was any way I could help someone avoid feeling how I felt, I’d be there.
So, after I recovered and was cleared by both my PCP and the health department, I went. I completed the training and administered two of our area's first-ever vaccines. Both of the recipients — one a traveling nurse who has been on the frontlines, and the other a veteran nurse who was volunteering just like me — brimmed with gratitude and relief upon getting the shots. My hand even made an appearance in their vaccine selfies!
I left that day feeling enormous pride knowing I had done my part to help save lives. In the parking lot after my shift, mask and face shield off, I called my oldest daughters to let them know I was on my way home.
“Did you give any today, Mom?” my 12-year-old asked me.
“I did!” I responded, unable to keep the excitement from my voice.
“That’s so awesome, Mom,” she said, her smile evident even through the phone. “I’m proud of you.”
Knowing my children — home for almost a full year now, handling the changes in their lives better than most adults, quietly listening and taking in the political tensions and ugliness of the world outside our four walls — have been able to see their mom be part of a solution as a vaccine nurse means everything to me. This past year has taught us that it can be easy to talk and share opinions on what is right through social media; I wanted to show my kids that while speaking up can be important, so is taking action.
I want my children to be able to grow up remembering that when the world around us is uncertain, it’s possible to take action to do what you feel is right. It doesn’t have to be shared on social media; it doesn’t have to be announced to your neighbors via a colorful yard sign. You can simply do.
Frankly, it’s a lesson I needed, too. I’m one of the thousands of parents, mostly mothers, who have been primarily at home during all of this, working remotely while caring for a toddler full-time, overseeing virtual school for two older children and navigating in-person learning for two younger children. It’s been exhausting and isolating and numbing and maddening all at the same time. But in all of it, I’ve been trying to force myself to remember that at the end of the day, it’s what I do that matters. It’s how I treat my neighbors and how I care for myself so I can continue to show up for my family. It’s what conversations I allow inside my own home and how I shape the future for my own children. It’s the small actions I take, from donning a mask in public to filtering my social media feeds to supporting the small businesses in my neighborhood.
It’s not always perfect and there are moments when I feel like I should be doing more. I can only volunteer a few shifts here and there once my husband is home to take over. But if this pandemic has shown me anything, it’s one lesson that I want to my kids to remember the most: We can always be part of the solution.
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