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Hope Campbell’s Vaccine Story

Hope Campbell in line to be vaccinated. There is a community within the community that is too often barely noticed as it teeters on the edge of obscurity of those blessed with good health, access to medicine, regular meals, and a safe place to live — comfortably.

This is also the space in which people like Hope Caldwell, a community health worker, find strength, purpose, and an undeniable resilience that is both admirable and encouraging.

It is also where she gets the inspiration to travel on one of the most dangerous days of the year — in an ice storm — to receive her COVID vaccination.

“I have worked through the whole pandemic,” said Hope as she stood patiently in line for her shot. “I’ve even serviced people with COVID-19 who are also recovering from substance use and couldn’t get the other types of support services they really need, like the group sessions, to help keep them going.”

Hope has been designated an “essential worker,” but the title falls short of conveying the responsibility she bears.

Trust Is Essential for Treatment and Saving Lives

“Sometimes there are so many underlying conditions with a patient that it can take a long time to sort them out in order to treat them,” she said. “Not everybody trusts people in a white coat. By simply caring and talking to them in a non-threatening setting, I can find out more about them in a few hours than a physician can in 6 months.”

As the line moved steadily forward to the registration area, Hope reflected for a moment on her current situation. She raised her head slightly toward the exit as if trying to sense the intensity of the ice storm that began as she was on her way to get her shot.

“The streets are slippery, but I didn’t have that far to walk,” she explained. “I had to take a bus and a subway to get here. The wind, though . . . was something else.”

“But it’s OK,” she mused. “I service people who are disabled and can’t work and rarely leave their homes because of their medical conditions. At least I can walk.”

Hope also works to make sure her patients are getting the COVID vaccine by any means necessary.

Getting the Vaccine to Where It’s Needed the Most

“It’s more than just getting them the vaccine,” she explained. “My patients have other healthcare workers who support them in their homes, and they must also be vaccinated. Since the pandemic, there has been a drop in the number of people who would provide such services as cleaning or changing bed clothes. Now, you have family, or others, who have to do it, but they also have to get vaccinated.”

It is in this space of demand meeting supply that Hope’s skills rise to the occasion.

“If there is a patient who is pre-diabetic, I make sure we get them into a special program that will address those needs,” she said in a tone meant to reassure as much as to explain. “I have patients who live in a ‘food desert’ who, on a regular, have challenges getting nutritious food, and COVID just makes it worse. I can get them up to a year of MANNA (Metropolitan Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) to improve their situation, especially if they live in a room and can’t cook.”

The line has now progressed to the registration table, and she takes a deep breath beneath her blue surgical mask before going up to the table and answering a few questions.

She is then waved into the next area where nurses give the medicine she needs to keep providing the services and encouragement that, like the vaccine, is literally saving lives at every level.

After the shot, she is all smiles — her expression even visible beneath the mask.

Outside, she mentally prepares herself for the treacherous walk to public transportation by mapping a safe route to the curb while praising the moment.

“I got my shot,” she exclaimed. “Now, I can keep on making sure my patients get theirs.”