TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – At just 31-years-old, Vanessa Arroyo has seen heartache up close and personal.
Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
Arroyo has been on the front lines of this pandemic as a registered nurse at Tampa General Hospital, assigned to the Taneja Family Global Emerging Diseases Institute, also known as the COVID unit.
She has witnessed the daily loss of life, seeing the grief in the faces of families as they say their final goodbyes on FaceTime, sobbing as they tell those they care for most, they love them.
For Arroyo, this has been what she describes as a “devastating” year. But, today represented a new chapter for the ICU nurse. She was on the critical care team that took care of the very first patient at TGH who became infected with the virus months ago.
When the coronavirus vaccine arrived at Tampa General Hospital on Monday, the TGH team says it was a profound and proud moment, not just for Tampa Bay, but for the entire state and the country.
For Arroyo, this arrival of this vaccine meant hope.
“We cared for the first COVID positive patient at Tampa General, so I felt like it was right for one of our own to be the first to receive this vaccine,” Arroyo said.
This TGH team member will remember this day forever for many reasons, not just because the vaccine arrived at her hospital, one of only five in the state to receive the first shipments, but also for another reason.
Her dedication during this pandemic also carries with it another distinction.
As a front-line worker, she was at the front of the line when came to receiving the vaccine on Monday, one of 20,000 doses delivered to the hospital, and was the first person in Tampa to be vaccinated.
“I am a firm believer in science and I trust what our scientists and researchers have been doing,” she said. “I felt confidence in our researchers that they were giving us the protections that our body needs to fight this virus.”
The 31-year-old explained what it’s been like on the front lines of a pandemic, waiting for a vaccine, and says it’s hard to put into words.
“Despair, grief, watching families say goodbye to their loved ones over Facetime was devastating. Not being able to have visitors while patients were gravely ill was devastating,” she told reporters.
In the end, this registered nurse says she hopes the public will welcome the vaccine, and she shared these words of advice and encouragement.
“If you want us to get back to our normal, you should really consider getting a vaccination, especially if you are high risk, it’s important, but especially if you have a loved one who is high risk, it’s very important.”
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