By Zandy Dudiak, Communications coordinator
Ramona Wilkes is quite upfront about what drove her to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine—an adorable 8-month-old baby boy who happens to be her grandson.
“He was my real reason for getting the vaccine,” she says. “If anyone gives him this virus, I don’t want it to be me.”
Ramona had other considerations as she thought about getting vaccinated, including an 8-year-old grandchild who lives with her and her work in the community as a service coordinator. Although she has provided only one ride to a person served since the pandemic hit—something that was done regularly pre-pandemic—there are times that might be required and she wants to be as protected as possible.
Ramona has never even had a flu shot. She had concerns about being injected with a live virus, which isn’t the case with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Since she began working on her doctoral dissertation, Ramona has been focused on research, so that’s exactly what she did before deciding to be vaccinated. She admits to being worried about the vaccine’s side effects.
“I had psyched myself out to being sick,” she says. “It was all in my mind. As I sat there getting it, I was not afraid.”
After the vaccine, she had some numbness on her right side and tingling down to her foot. Though her arm was sore afterward, the numbness subsided.
Ramona enjoys Zoom calls with her extended family from across the country once a month. Recently, their discussion turned to COVID and they were all waiting for her to get immunized first.
“The more people who do it, the more people who are going to do it,” says Ramona, whose second vaccination is scheduled for Feb. 4. “The more people who get it, the safer we are.”
Since last March, Ramona says the Service Coordination Unit has been handling more housing referrals, crisis plans, and, in general, doing more paperwork.
“It’s changed our department,” she says, especially the limited contact with persons served.
What Ramona misses most is not having Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and other events for the families served by Pittsburgh Mercy. What saddens her the most is not providing families with the little things that perk up their lives because there aren’t outside events to get tickets for or donations from businesses and restaurants to provide them with a bright moment.
While she’s hoping for a return to normal as more people get vaccinated, she concedes that “we may never stop wearing a mask.”
But that’s not going to stop her from taking a planned vacation to Walt Disney World this summer, even if lines are physically distanced. She’s looking forward to the trip, knowing she’s been vaccinated. She’ll be armed with hand sanitizer and a mask.
The reward will be sharing the excitement of her baby grandson’s first trip to Disney.
Ramona with her baby grandson.