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"Hope & light at the end of the tunnel" | First Baptist DeSoto Hospital workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

Frontline doctors and nurses are hopeful and reflective after a long year of COVID-19 care and increased capacity strain.

SOUTHAVEN, Mississippi — There's hope after plenty of heartache, after the first COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday for frontline medical workers Baptist DeSoto Hospital.

One of the first to roll up her sleeves was ICU Nurse Manager Wanda Grayson, who also felt a heavy heart.

"The number of deaths have been hard," Grayson said. "Seeing patients die without family members being able to be at their side."

For months, Grayson and others bounced back and kept their heads up, even when COVID-19 patients in their care didn't survive.

"When family members are present there's a wall of glass separating them and so they are not able to touch, they not able to rub their hands," Grayson said.

Still, Wednesday offered light after a dark year, as the first group of hospital frontline workers at Baptist DeSoto received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It gives us that extra piece of mind to know that we are protected," Baptist DeSoto ER Medical Director Dr. David Hooker said.

"Today I think has been a glimmer of hope," Baptist DeSoto respiratory therapist Johnny Coleman said.

The COVID-19 vaccinations come at a critical and serious moment. In recent days, available staffed ICU and acute care beds at Memphis metro hospitals - including Baptist DeSoto - inch dangerously close to full capacity.

"There's been fewer of us to go in and treat these people, and it just seems we turn around, we get more and more and more and the workload is just increasing and increasing," Coleman said,

Frontline workers at Shelby County hospitals in the Baptist, Regional One, and Methodist Le Bonheur systems are expected to get their vaccines in the coming days.

The Shelby County Health Department's vaccine allotment for first responders and those at assisted living facilities are expected the week of December 28th.