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IUK alumna among first to get both COVID-19 vaccine doses

Alumni Jan 27, 2021
A woman in nurses scrubs
A woman in nurses scrubs

KOKOMO, Ind. — When Heather Wells found out she could be the first nurse in Howard County to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it was a no-brainer for her to volunteer.

“I’m just doing a small part to try to prevent people from getting sick,” said Wells, who earned her nursing degrees at Indiana University Kokomo.

“I’ve seen what the virus can do. I’ve seen it take out some perfectly healthy people with no prior issues. I was just excited to get it started, and hope if I set the example it was OK and there were no issues, maybe other people would do so, and maybe we can get out of this mess,” she said.

Wells, a nurse at Ascension St. Vincent in Kokomo, added that the education she received at IU Kokomo laid a good foundation for her to make an educated decision to get vaccinated.

She received her initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine at work December 17, followed by the second on January 8, making her the first in Howard County to be fully vaccinated.

She didn’t go into it blind — when she first heard a vaccine was in the pipeline, she started doing research, preparing herself for it.

“I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I read all the information I could find about it. I truly believe in science,” she said, adding that she also consulted with a friend who works in research and development for vaccines.

“I just gathered as much information as I could. I had no qualms about it whatsoever,” she said.

She experienced very few side effects.

“The first day, I got my shot in the morning, and I felt great that afternoon,” she said. “I had no issues at all, and worked out later that night.” After the second shot, her arm was tender and warm, in the afternoon, but she took some Ibuprofen and was fine the next day.

“Some people will have mild side effects, and then there will be people like me who have none at all,” Wells said. “I would recommend it for anyone in my family.”

Wells had joked with her supervisor about wanting to be first, and registered for the first day of the clinic for health care workers at her hospital. A day before she was scheduled, her supervisor called to see if she would participate in a trial run that day.

“It was a fluke that I had joked about it, but I was really able to be first,” she said. “As a health care provider, it’s important to lead the way, to show everyone the health care we are providing is safe and effective. I can’t think of any better way to do that than to volunteer to go first.”

After nearly a year of caring for COVID-19 patients in the medical-surgical unit, and taking precautions to avoid being infected, or exposing others, she’s relieved to have the injection.

“At least now, I don’t have to worry so much about getting sick, and taking it home to my family,” she said. “COVID-19 is everywhere. It comes in waves. It seems like we have some weeks where we have normal numbers, and then we will have a week or two where numbers get high, and you’re struggling to find beds for patients. It’s a constant struggle to find places to put them, and to find staff to take care of them. With this vaccine, I can have one less worry.”

Wells encourages others to get the shot as it becomes available to them.

“Everyone should do their research, read up on it, and ask friends and family who have had it,” she said. “The benefits significantly outweigh the risks.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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