A Frontline Nurse Shares Her Journey through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The July 4, 2020, weekend was a busy one full of extra shifts for Tanelle Gordon, RN, an acute care nurse for Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital (ALMH).

“My throat felt mildly scratchy,” Tanelle recalled. “I didn’t think much of it. I thought I’d go home, drink some warm tea and try to feel better.”

When her scratchy throat turned into a cough on July 7, she made the decision to quarantine even though she was certain her symptoms were from seasonal allergies. She started taking over-the-counter sinus medication. By the time she spiked a fever and started facing severe fatigue, she alerted work and arranged to be tested. After her test, the symptoms worsened.

“My chest started hurting so bad, I knew I had to go the hospital,” she said. “The worst part was being in isolation, needing to be alone. Just not to have that personal interaction.”

Gordon battled COVID-19 for several months, initially at Decatur Memorial Hospital and later at ALMH for their swing bed program. She finally returned to ALMH for light duty on Oct. 7.

When the opportunity for vaccination came up, she had concerns at first. When she talked to her primary doctor about the vaccine, the doctor cautioned that Tanelle’s lungs couldn’t survive another round of COVID-19. She encouraged Tanelle to get the vaccination, and Tanelle agreed.

She did not receive any pushback from family or friends about scheduling the vaccination. But she’s aware that some members of the Black community experience hesitancy about vaccination, often due to a general mistrust of the medical community.

“We have to be responsible in our community to help one another to reach back and help others,” she said. “Our communities are dying at a faster rate. It’s killing us. And this is something we can do to help stop this and help ourselves.”

She hopes healthcare organizations will reach out to affected communities, build greater trust by partnering with churches and provide education through open forums about the benefits and side effects of vaccination.

“This (vaccination) is something we can do to help our communities.”

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