Hope. The word “hope,” only four letters long, but packed with such big meaning. As the third person in Kentucky to receive the COVID vaccine and working on the COVID floor since March, hope is the only answer I can give when asked what the COVID vaccine means to me.
Hope that the 28 patients I have lost to COVID, or the 3,000-plus Kentuckians lost to COVID, or the 350,000-plus Americans whom we have lost to COVID, did not die in vain.
Hope that one day, there will be no need for a COVID unit or floor and that worrying whether we have enough PPE, ICU beds, ventilators or high-flow oxygen machines will be distant memories.
Hope that I will no longer worry when one of my family members, friends, colleagues or staff members start coughing that they will become a statistic.
Hope that I will no longer have to strip my COVID scrubs off before I can come into my own home just to hug my child and husband.
Hope that millions of Americans who barely can make ends meet because of the effects of COVID on their livelihood can finally return to work.
Hope that I can finally sit down at my favorite restaurant, enjoy my meal and a glass of wine without having to put a mask on just to get to my table. I am even more hopeful that I can enjoy that meal with friends whom I have not seen since before the pandemic.
Hope that I will no longer have to have difficult discussions with patients’ family members regarding end-of-life care over FaceTime or Zoom.
Hope that my son and the millions of students like him, finally get to be with their teachers, classmates and friends in-person at school.
Hope that I can venture outside my bubble without worrying where the people outside my bubble have been and if they may have COVID.
Hope that, one day, I can shake someone’s hand or just smile at people passing by without having to wear a mask.
Hope that my N95 mask will not leave permanent lines on my face from wearing it almost every day since March.
Hope that the general public will be just as excited and inspired as I am as I scroll through the numerous pictures of healthcare workers all over the country who are rolling up their sleeves for the COVID vaccine.
Hope that the general public will stand beside me and my fellow healthcare workers and get the vaccine so we can defeat COVID together.
Hope that this virus that has been destroying us for the past year is finally what unites us.
Dr. Valerie F. Briones-Pryor has been running a COVID unit at UofL’s Jewish Hospital since March.