By Zandy Dudiak, Communications coordinator
Diane Johnson, admittedly, is a social butterfly. But for most of the last year, Diane has felt like she’s been living in a cocoon. “I feel like I’m on house arrest. It’s killing me not to be around my friends. This type of existence is troubling for me. This is not living.”
Daily life for the senior manager of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Service Coordination Unit has been pretty much limited to going to work, heading home, deciding what’s for dinner, putting on the TV, and cleaning up the house. Other than shopping, “there’s nothing else for me to do,” she says.
Diane has met COVID-19 first-hand. Her 80-year-old mother, who lives with her, tested positive first, but remained asymptomatic. Two other household members didn’t fare as well. Her daughter lost her sense of smell and taste. Her husband grew sick, weak, and lost strength as he fought the virus.
“By the grace of God, they all survived,” says Diane, who, though she was mostly asymptomatic, still finds herself short of breath every once in a while. “You don’t want this virus. It really takes a toll. It’s going to tear your body up.”
Realizing that total isolation is unrealistic, Diane asked herself a question: “How is life going to be different if I don’t get the vaccine? It will find you. It’s so contagious, some of the innocent things we do put us at risk.”
Even though they experienced the coronavirus, her family is divided about getting the vaccine. Diane’s mother told her, “I’m not going to get that serum in me.” And her 28-year-old daughter also does not plan to get vaccinated.
Diane had some concerns herself because she is allergic to a prescription medication, peanut butter, and bee stings.
So, Diane consulted a doctor, who told her just to have her EpiPen (injectable epinephrine), Benadryl, and medical professionals available in case she had a reaction. Knowing that Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center was one floor down from the vaccination site on the South 9th Street campus was reassuring.
“I looked to God,” Diane recalls. “Lord, if it’s your will, I will get this vaccine.”
Diane received her second vaccination on Tuesday, February 2. In the end, it came down to simple logic for her—if you get the vaccine, you won’t get sick. She is proud that all the supervisors who report to her have been vaccinated. “It would be a blessing to be around vaccinated folks” and those who wear masks.
Diane worries about people who are refusing the vaccine because of political influence, stereotypes, and misinformation. She knows African-Americans who worry that the vaccine is the “white man trying to poison them”—and the very real history that leads to that fear. She arranged for an African-American doctor talk to colleagues on February 5 in hopes of allaying any hesitancy in those persons still not sure about being vaccinated.
Like Diane, her husband is ready for life to move on. They plan to travel to Florida this year, even if it means a quarantine when they return home. “I can’t live in fear,” Diane says. “With a prayer, this, too, will pass.”