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This nurse got vaccinated after losing her mother and aunt to COVID-19

Beenish Ahmed
Michigan Radio

Marion King said her hesitancy about the vaccine turned into urgency only after she lost both her mother and aunt to COVID-19 last month. 

“When I found out my mom was positive, I know my aunt had to be because whatever air my mother breathed, you breathed it too,” King said, noting that the sisters had what she described as an “inseparable bond.” 

The two healthy women in their mid-60s quickly became debilitated by illness, losing their strength and some of their cognitive abilities within a matter of days. King said the hardest thing she had to do was tell her aunt that her mother had died. 

“Her words were, ‘Lord, you took everything from me that was my ride-or-die. I can't live without my sister.” 

A few days later, King’s aunt died as well. King said the sisters who had so often been mistaken for twins were buried in twin caskets at a joint funeral, surrounded by matching flowers. 

King had done everything she could to protect herself from contracting and spreading COVID-19 from the nursing home where she worked until recently, wearing gowns and gloves, and sanitizing everything she touched. 

“You know, you come home and you find yourself you're stripping at your door before you can even make it in your home to make sure you're not taking anything and see your family,” said King, a licensed practical nurse, or LPN. 

Despite those fears, King hesitated when the vaccine first became available to her because she wanted to do more research into the different makers and decide which one was right for her. 

It was only after losing two women who had both mothered her, that King decided to get vaccinated.

“By that point I thought that I'm ready to take whichever [vaccine] is available to me because I need to give my children this opportunity to have [their mother]” she said. “They have lost so much, so much that I couldn't be this selfish and I fight a little harder.” 

Soon after, King decided to administer the vaccine to others as well, and joined the vaccine clinic at Henry Ford. 

As someone who had her own concerns, she said she understands the hesitancy that people have about the vaccine, and asks patients to talk through their concerns with her before she gives them the shot. She puts the question to Janice Sewell who came into the clinic for a shot. 

“I was like, 'oh, I'm not getting it. No way,'” she said, until she became ill with COVID in January. “I started to get chills and aches and pains all over, then vomiting, then just fatigue. The fatigue is really something you can't even get out the bed, hardly.” 

Sewell, a postal worker, said she could barely stand for long enough to take a shower at the height of the illness. By the time she recovered, Sewell said she had changed her mind about the vaccine. 

But many have not had the change of heart Sewell and King experienced. 

The pace of vaccination has slowed at her vaccination site, and others across metro Detroit. There’s been a nearly 60,000 drop in shots administered between the first and second week of April and much of that decline is tied to the city, according to state data. 

King felt optimistic that the drop is only temporary, but she worries for the potential risks those who are unvaccinated expose themselves to especially as COVID-19 infections remain high across the state, with some hospitals at capacity in wards dedicated to treating people with the virus. 

After she sends Sewell to an observation area to wait for any potential reactions to the vaccine, King got a text message from a friend who said her mother had just passed away from COVID. That friend, King said, had also been hesitant about getting vaccinated.

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Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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