Sandra Lindsay, RN, made it clear to anyone who would listen that she wanted to be first in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine. She was emotionally exhausted from witnessing the pain and suffering of far too many dying patients, and the sweat and tears of her team of heroic providers who work tirelessly to save as many lives as they can. Last year, she lost an aunt and uncle to COVID-19.
"I just wanted the shot in my arm," says Ms. Lindsay, director of critical care at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in Queens, N.Y. "That was the first step. Then I knew there was hope, and healing could begin."
She got her wish on December 14, when she became the first American to receive the vaccine outside of a clinical trial. Ms. Lindsay knew she would be among the first hospital employees to receive the vaccine, and understood the enormity of the moment. She knew there'd be a press conference and wasn't surprised when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo showed up.
What she didn't anticipate in the days that followed were the countless media requests, and the appearances on local news stations and national talk shows. She certainly didn't dream of being chosen to represent the nation's healthcare workers during the nationally televised gala celebrating President Joe Biden's inauguration. "I never expected to receive so much attention," she says, "but it's given me a platform to share my experiences and have productive conversations about the vaccine."
Ms. Lindsay received her second dose on January 4. Being fully vaccinated left her feeling energized and lighter, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Still, she had mixed emotions about being one of the first Americans to reach the other side of the pandemic. She was now protected against the virus, but millions of Americans remain at risk of exposure. Ms. Lindsay says LIJ saw a recent spike in cases similar to what the hospital experienced a year ago during the pandemic's first wave.
"The virus is still out there," she says. "Although I'm hopeful for the healing the vaccines will bring, I'm fearful for the people who are still suffering. Word is spreading about the importance of being vaccinated. Hopefully, we'll start to feel safer and begin to reclaim our lives."