Working in healthcare and especially working with residents, I am privy to information that the general public not only does not have access to, but are not aware of unless they receive the information through mainstream media or social media. I remember when I first started hearing about the Coronavirus (and what was happening in China, and then at the time in Italy) I didn’t think much about it. I kept saying “oh it won’t be so bad here, and it won’t last long.”
It wasn’t until I learned that someone from California had died from the virus and it was beginning to spread like wildfire on the west coast that I started to pay more attention and take it seriously. The months of March and April 2020 were very tough months for me. Information about COVID was coming in so fast and changing just as fast. I work in the UMASS Baystate Med-Peds Residency Program, and to have to change around resident schedules, what felt like every other minute, and create COVID surge schedules was mentally and emotionally tiresome to say the least, but the leadership from our Program Director Dr Sharon Wretzel, and our Associate Program Directors Dr. Maura Munoz and Dr. Sam Borden, helped to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Working with the residents is such a rewarding job. I watched our residents work tirelessly on the frontlines while not only supporting each other but supporting their colleagues in Internal Medicine fighting this pandemic. Much was asked of them to do while trying to sustain burnout. This was an “All hands on deck approach” and both Program Directors Dr Sharon Wretzel, and Internal Medicine Program Director Dr. Reham Shaaban made sure that the residents education remained at the forefront as much as possible.
Personally, I wanted to make it a point to educate myself about COVID-19. I asked the residents many questions, I read transcripts on the CDC website from their meetings, I followed the WHO, and paid attention to John Hopkins website for their data and trends on the virus. I didn’t let the hysteria of mainstream media and social media get in the way of me doing my own research. Dr Keroack and Dr Artenstein have done a thorough job on leading the charge by Baystate Health to not only care for the communities in which we serve but also making sure that employees felt safe and received the care that we may need.
When it comes to the vaccines, I was never hesitant or apprehensive to getting that vaccine. As a Black Woman, I understand the hesitance of my family and friends getting a vaccine that was rushed and with little information to understand how the vaccine would affect us as people of color. History in medicine has continued to perpetuate the mistrust and misguidance when it comes to people of color, this is not a secret but a known fact.
After doing continuous research on Pfizer and Moderna, I made the decision to get the Moderna vaccine when it became available to employees. The first shot was a piece of cake. The only pain I had was in my arm and that was it. I received the second shot at 6 am a month later, and did not have any symptoms from it until 7 pm that night.
The second shot was difficult. I had worse pain in my arm than getting the flu shot. To be honest and transparent I felt like I was hit by a Mack 10 Truck and a train at the same time! To give perspective as to how long the symptoms lasted I received the second shot on a Monday at 6 am, didn’t start to feel symptoms until 7 pm the same night which came on full force. Tuesday by 3:00 PM, I started to feel much better. The overall pain was gone, but I still had to take it easy and slowly start to move around again. By Wednesday it was as if nothing happened!
It is so important for the community to get vaccinated because to put it simply IT BEATS THE ALTERNATIVE! I have witnessed first-hand the effects of COVID-19 on the body. I have heard terrible stories and have lost friends to this terrible virus. That was enough for me to say that the vaccine is worth getting. COVID-19 effects the body in ways that we have never seen before. Even if someone makes it through the worst of COVID-19 they still have lasting effects after. I personally know a few people that had COVID and are still suffering.
Like with any other vaccine, enough people need to get it in order to collect data and see the effects it has on us. Were these particular vaccines rushed? YES, but due to the severity of the situation that is happening globally something had to be done. [Note: COVID vaccines went through the appropriate clinical trials. See info from the CDC.]
It has been a full 2 months since I received my second shot and I am still wearing a mask, still practicing social distancing, and still not venturing out as if COVID-19 never existed. It is imperative that we continue to follow guidelines otherwise we will never stop wearing masks and we will continue to be restricted from living a “normal” life. No matter what, the only person you can control is yourself.
– Lakisha Duncan, GME Education Coordinator, UMMS-Baystate Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program, Co-Chair, Black Employees Connecting Business, Resource Group
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