Bridgman, MI—The first wave of Covid-19 hit the U.S. about four years ago, yet seems like ages now. During those first months of the pandemic, we were involuntarily isolated. It was so frightening.
When the first vaccines became available in Maine, healthcare providers and front-line personnel were given the first shots. My wife Sharon and I got our names on the waiting list to receive our vaccinations at a special location set up by Maine Medical Center at the site of Scarborough Downs, in southern Maine, which was closing after more than 70 years of harness racing in Maine.
I'll never forget the process. There was an extensive screening that took place by phone and email. Finally, our appointment was set up for processing our first series of shots on March 5, 2021.
Sharon had always been fearful of receiving shots. However, the spread of Covid-19 and the excruciating illness and deaths that were running through the population prompted Sharon to roll up her sleeves with no hesitancy.
As subsequent boosters became available, we received each one. However, it became more and more difficult to get Sharon to receive her Covid-19 boosters and her flu shots, due to her increasing dementia. When the 2023 flu shots were announced, along with an updated 2023 Covid-19 booster, I knew it was going to be a significant challenge to get her to receive these 2023 vaccines.
When we arrived at the appointed time, we checked in and had a seat. The pharmacy at the Hilltop Walgreens is usually very busy; that day was no exception. Announcements about those waiting for shots were being made. After hearing one of these announcements, Sharon told me emphatically that she was not going to be receiving any shots. Since trying to coerce her into this would not be productive, I went up to the counter and told the staff we would reschedule for another time.
After returning home, I began to get very stressed. There are those now who view the Covid-19 boosters as unnecessary and some even view them negatively. One of my friends proudly told me that they had not received any Covid-19 vaccines and that "God is my shield."
However, I personally have come to believe in the efficacy of both flu and Covid-19 vaccines. Sharon and I both have received flu shots for many years. I believe we have benefited from both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines.
With our age and the fact that Covid-19 is quite active in the area where we live, I began to feel a great responsibility to ensure both my wife and I receive our flu and Covid-19 vaccines this year. Especially after two of our friends had just contracted Covid-19 and were quite sick and isolated for almost two weeks.
As I thought about it, the size of the Hilltop Walgreens pharmacy and its waiting area were a detriment to Sharon's comfort level. I booked appointments for us at another Walgreens in Stevensville which is smaller and has a less clinical atmosphere.
I knew that with Sharon's hesitancy toward shots and her increasing dementia, I would not be able to convince her to receive the shots. This was shaping up to be one of the largest challenges I had ever faced, and I began to understand the futility of my ability to accomplish this important task.
On the day of our appointment, I prayed for the help I needed as I knew I would not be able to solve this problem on my own.
We entered the Stevensville Walgreens pharmacy at our appointed time and checked in. When our names were called, we were ushered into the private shot room where a friendly staff person had prepared a basket with the vaccine-filled syringes for us both.
The staff member who was to give our injections was very nice and gave us the proper instructions. She explained that this year we could receive both shots at the same time. We decided I would go first, and she competently administered both shots to me. Then, it was Sharon's turn. Sharon stated very firmly that she was not going to receive any shots. After about five minutes of the staff member gently trying to persuade Sharon to receive the shots, Sharon walked out of the room as a signal of finality. I apologized, explained that my wife has dementia, and said we would try again another time.
I met Sharon in one of the aisles and we began heading toward the store's exit. As I was wiping away a few tears, and starting to feel that my prayer wasn't that important, there was an announcement over the PA system: "Mr. Lewis, please return to the pharmacy".
We turned around and as we approached the pharmacy counter, a woman holding a basket came up to me and said "Mr. Lewis?" I said yes. Then she said, "My name is Kia, I'm the pharmacy manager here. My father has dementia, and
I wondered if I could try to help with your wife, Sharon." Please, I replied. Then in the aisle, Kia started talking with Sharon. Within less than a minute she had established a positive rapport with Sharon and walked us out of the aisle and into a back staff workroom where the positive vibes continued. Kia asked about Sharon’s background and learned that Sharon had been an exceptionally good daycare provider and loved children. Then she asked if we were doing anything special that day. I replied that we were going to Culver's restaurant for lunch.
She very gently told Sharon she was going to help her receive her vaccines and as she raised the sleeve of Sharon's sweater, she asked " What are your favorites at Culver's, Sharon?" By the time they had finished discussing the yummy things on Culver's menu, Kia had already administered both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines and had placed the two band-aids on Sharon’s arm.
As we headed out for Culver's, I knew we had met an angel at Walgreens.
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.