“It almost feels like being at war. I have to do something. I’m trained to do this. It’s my duty as a citizen, and I’m helping my country. I feel worthwhile.” Those words, spoken by nurse Kathy Shimada, reflect the attitude of the 60 nurses, doctors and pharmacy students who have been selflessly serving in our vaccination clinic every Saturday. They are fighting a common enemy with a shared goal: to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic in SaddleBrooke.
These medical volunteers, retired and active, come not only from our community but from all around Tucson. They responded to Desert Life pharmacist Brianne Spaeth’s call to action and joined Senior Village in the SaddleBrooke vaccination project.
Competent, energetic University of Arizona pharmacy students give up their own plans for Saturday to join the effort. Volunteer nurse Glen Hamburger in Green Valley, motivated by a need to be involved, makes the two-hour round trip drive each week.
For nurses like SaddleBrooke resident Bonnie Westra, who has a license from another state, and wanted “to do something to make a difference, make our community safe,” the state of Arizona issues a 90-day renewable emergency license to increase the nursing workforce.
Volunteers’ experience in so many medical fields is put to use at the clinic. Kathy Shimada, Jan Koshak, Sally Teusch, Craig Cardel and Rick Fey serve as coordinators. Teams review consent forms in the check-in line noting medications taken and pre-existing conditions that might cause adverse reactions to the vaccine. It is up to them to determine if a participant will spend 30 minutes in the “recovery” area after receiving a vaccination.
The first medical personnel to arrive on Saturday mornings are those who gather around the library table to fill the syringes. Boxes of Moderna vaccine, each containing 100 doses, are kept frozen until that morning and then must be used within six hours.
Once the line of cars reaches the HOA-1 clubhouse portico, a team of vaccinators quickly administers near-painless shots, thanks to small needles. After the syringes have been emptied, they are placed in red containers to be sealed and safely disposed.
In the recovery area, medical personnel visit each car to check on residents. A physician waits nearby if an emergency arises. Now people begin to relax. Smiles of relief replace fear and anxiety.
The final job of the day is to enter information about every shot into the pharmacy database. This must be submitted to Pinal County within twenty-four hours. More work for more volunteers, but it signals the end of another exhausting but rewarding day.
The process is complex; the answer is simple: committed and caring people come together to protect and serve their community. SaddleBrooke offers its heartfelt gratitude to all volunteers.