January 18, 2021

‘I’m ready for it’ — Mississippi critical care nurse refuses to live in fear, getting vaccine

Singing River Health System received the first Pfizer vaccines Tuesday afternoon on the Mississippi Coast, with 975 doses arriving in Pascagoula.

One of those shots had Lacy Lancaster’s name on it.

She has worked for 13 years as a registered nurse in critical care. For the past nine months, Lancaster has been caring for COVID-19 patients in intensive care. Although the virus has infected some of her colleagues, and one has died, Lancaster has so far avoided COVID-19.

She looks forward to being vaccinated, she told the Sun Herald on Tuesday morning.

“I’m ready for it,” 40-year-old Lancaster said. “I’m not scared of taking the shot. I want to get it. I think everybody should get it.”

“I’m confident that it will give us an extra layer of protection.”

Frontline healthcare workers such as Lacy are first in line nationwide for the shot, which will also be distributed quickly in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. The vaccine will be available to the general public in spring or early summer, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has said.

Approval of a second vaccine from Moderna is expected Friday. Both vaccines proved about 95% effective in clinical trials.

NURSE PROTECTS HERSELF ON COVID ICU FLOOR

Singing River media relations director Sarah Duffey said the healthcare system was scheduled to wait on the Moderna vaccine, but wanted to protect its workers sooner and pushed for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine delivery on Tuesday.

All three Singing River hospitals — in Ocean Springs, Pascagoula and Gulfport — have subzero freezers that can store up to 5,000 total doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The health system will be inoculating healthcare workers from all three locations.
Lancaster, a 40-year-old mother of two, says she is careful to take all precautions before she heads onto the COVID-19 ICU floor, where she works nights and weekends.

“When I go to work, I know how to protect myself,” she said. “Yes, I would be scared if I had it, but I can’t have that mindset. I have a job to do.”

Lancaster’s concern is for her patients. In October, when she lost two patients within one hour, Lacy composed a heartbreaking Facebook post with a photo of herself on the ICU floor. She wrote, in part:

“This is the face of Covid. The plague that ‘doesn’t exist,’

“Take a walk in my shoes, because it’s not pretty. Losing two patients within one hour of each other. Two amazing human beings. Both who overcame unbelievable challenges in life just to be taken down by this disease.

“Two patients whose families we bonded with the last few weeks. Two families who one day learned that things were getting better, and just 12 hours later learned things were taking a turn for the worse. That’s what Covid does. It flips the switch in the blink of an eye.”

Her post has been shared more than 2,000 times.

PATIENTS SICKEST SHE’S SEEN, MANY ON VENTILATORS

Lacy asks that people protect their loved ones by wearing masks and social distancing. She said COVID-19 has changed everything on her ICU floor.

“We’re just seeing so many patients sicker than we’ve ever seen, so many ventilators on the unit,” she said. Families are often unable to visit their loved ones in ICU, even through the glass on a hospital room door. Often, family members are quarantining because they, too, have been exposed to COVID-19.

As has been reported so often, visits are by phone and FaceTime. She and other healthcare workers are covered in protective gear when they see patients, so personal contact of every kind is missing.

Still, Lancaster grows close to her patients and their families. She thinks of them and prays for them long after her shift ends.