By Christy Sillman
7 Jan

Finding Hope Within the COVID-19 Vaccination

Thursday, January 07, 2021

I received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination two days before Christmas 2020, and I underestimated the emotion I would feel while receiving it (I since received my second dose this past Tuesday). As an ACHD nurse practitioner, I’m not directly caring for COVID-19 patients, but I do walk into the hospital every day fully aware that there are many COVID-19 patients on or near the units I round on.

The level of vigilance with PPE shortages and helping my patients and myself stay safe has been exhausting. As an ACHD patient, I know what it is like to be critically ill on a ventilator. I have heightened anxiety about COVID-19, because I know what is at stake. This vaccination feels like a beacon of hope within the darkness that has clouded the past year.

I am not a stranger to medical advances. As an infant with critical congenital heart disease (CHD that relies on the fetal heart passageways to stay open in order to survive), my parents enrolled me in a clinical trial for prostaglandin therapy. This therapy allowed me time to be transferred to a larger hospital to undergo urgent heart surgery, which was a much better alternative to the first option my parents were offered – hospice care for their newborn infant.

My entire life has been lived on the cutting edge of medicine, and if I had been born even a decade earlier, I doubt I would be here today.

(FYI – today, prostaglandin is the primary initial therapy for infants born with critical congenital heart disease. Pediatric critical care transport nurses carry it in their pocket.)

Science has always had my back, and it hasn’t let me down yet. Many people worry that these vaccinations were rushed into development, but the reality is that this vaccination technology has been in development for many years in response to the first SARS outbreak. As often happens in medicine, funding slowed the progress of this research, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to rely on this previous research to spearhead a herculean effort to help address this global crisis.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to receive the vaccine, and know that this will greatly reduce my anxiety and allow me to focus on providing the best care for my patients possible. As we learn more about how the vaccine will be distributed and what the recommendations are for adults and children with CHD, I encourage you to take time to discuss your concerns or questions with your care team, and to educate yourself about the vaccine with credible sources. As with any new medical technology, we are required to take a “leap of faith” and dig deep for courage with a focus on hope for our future, along with deep trust in the scientific process.

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.