Arm Yourself: Jennifer Lussier’s COVID-19 Story
A message from Jennifer Lussier PA-C, Urgent Care Centers at Southcoast Health, on how to arm yourself and your loved ones against COVID-19:
During the first year of the pandemic, the Southcoast Health Dartmouth Urgent Care Center served as a COVID-19 respiratory clinic for our community. Working there, I saw COVID-19 patients that were not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital but had significant respiratory symptoms.
Part of my job is to discuss the disease or infection that is affecting a patient, provide reassurance, and review their best treatment options. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much uncertainty about the virus. At that early stage in the pandemic, we didn’t have all the answers. I will remember for the rest of my life the panic and worry I saw from these patients.
Personally, I was also fearful for my own life while working at the respiratory clinic. The isolation from my family was unbearable at times. I am extremely close to my mother, who is 72 years old, and I was unable to physically see her for almost two years out of fear of bringing the virus from work to her. I felt fearful for my patients, staff, co-workers, and community.
We learned quickly that COVID-19 does not discriminate. This virus affects the young and old, males and females, and all races. I’ll never forget seeing a young man, about 20 years old, who came in for testing because of exposure at work. His test was positive, and he returned to the respiratory clinic 24 hours after I initially saw him with worsening symptoms. He had never been seriously ill in his entire life.
I remember when the medics came to transport him to the hospital. He was tearful, telling me how scared he was and that he needed his father with him. To make things worse, I had to tell his father that – for his own health and safety – he couldn’t go with his son in the ambulance or be at his son’s bedside. His father became emotional, crying on the phone.
He said, “He’s never been to the hospital in his life. I don’t want my son to be alone. Can you please stay with him?” Because of hospital safety precautions, I was not allowed to do so. It was heart-shattering. The young man died 12 hours later, and has stayed with me every day since. I carry him in my heart.
Now that the vaccine is available, getting vaccinated is important not only for your own health, but for our community as a whole. Getting the vaccine doesn’t just protect you; it protects your family, friends, and co-workers, as well. Getting vaccinated also helps protect healthcare workers and limits the chance that they will get COVID-19 while caring for patients.
The intention of the vaccine is not to protect you from contracting the virus completely, but to significantly decrease the possibility of progression to severe illness and death from COVID-19. Given more time and research, the vaccine will likely have better protection from the various strains of COVID-19; however, at this time, the available vaccine has been proven to significantly aid in decreased transmission and prevention of progression to severe illness.
At some point in their lifetime, every person will need acute care, either at an Emergency Department or Urgent Care Center. At our Urgent Care Centers, we take care of patients who are waiting for test results or are confirmed positive for COVID-19. We do our best to protect ourselves with PPE and get ourselves vaccinated to protect our community. We all have families. Our families are in a constant state of worry and panic about our exposures. If you do not want to get the vaccine for yourself, please consider getting the vaccine for ME and all other healthcare workers who come to work every day to take care of you.
We are at a crucial moment in human history and our actions today will help shape the future for so many. Arm yourself with the facts to make an informed decision.
Visit www.southcoast.org/covid-19-vaccination to find upcoming vaccination opportunities at Southcoast Health, and please speak to your medical provider if you have questions or concerns. You can also find other places to get vaccinated at www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-locations.