Kelsey Zoodsma, RN, treats each patient like family when she gives COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Thursday, she brought that same compassionate approach to an actual member of her family—her 80-year-old grandmother, Peggy Alexander.

Zoodsma greeted her grandmother with smiling eyes as she sat down at her station at the Spectrum Health COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

“I picked a really good one for you,” Zoodsma said, as she held up a syringe.

With swift, well-practiced motions, she delivered the injection into Alexander’s upper arm.

“Piece of cake, piece of cake,” Alexander said.

She squeezed her granddaughter’s hand, tears in her eyes.

“Who would have thought when you were in your mother’s womb that you would be the person who would one day give me the shot that might save my life?” she said.

For Zoodmsa, it was an honor to be the one to deliver the injection.

“You have so much to live for, so many goals and dreams,” she told her grandmother. “You need this vaccine.”

Alexander, a retired teacher, hopes the vaccine will reduce her risk of getting COVID-19.

She wants to remain healthy to continue enjoying an active life. She walks 5 miles a day. She goes fly-fishing every summer in Montana.

“I love being outside. I love walking through the woods,” she said.

Peace of mind

Throughout the pandemic, Alexander has taken precautions to avoid the virus—to protect herself and others. She has rarely seen her extended family, which includes two sons, four grandchildren—including Zoodsma—and three great grandchildren.

Even with the vaccine, she still plans to be careful, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I will still follow the same protocols as I do now. No large groups. I will still wear a mask,” she said.

But the vaccine brings her peace of mind.

“It will help me sleep at night, I tell you,” she said. “I know deep down inside somewhere, I worry about (COVID-19) all the time. Being 80, I know I am more susceptible.”

It was a coincidence that Alexander’s vaccine was scheduled on a day when Zoodsma would be working in the clinic.

Zoodsma, a nurse for 10 years, usually works at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

During the pandemic, she also has worked at Spectrum Health Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals and cared for patients with COVID-19.

When the opportunity arose to work in the vaccination clinic, she eagerly said, “Yes.”

“I have seen people on ventilators in the ICU for weeks on end,” she said. “To be on the preventive side is really refreshing.”

Zoodsma worked her first 12-hour shift in the Grand Rapids clinic on Tuesday. She estimates she vaccinated about 250 people.

When her dad, Brad Lampe, mentioned her grandmother was scheduled to receive her vaccine Thursday, Zoodsma asked her manager if she could give the shot.

“I trust the vaccine, and I believe in it,” Zoodsma said. “I am very excited that she can get it.”

After the injection, the two shared a warm hug—their first since the pandemic began.

“I am very blessed. I can’t believe it,” Alexander said. “I’m going to sleep better tonight.”

‘It is an honor’

Giving the vaccine to patients makes for a busy but rewarding day, Alexander said.

“Everyone is so nice and so thankful,” she said.

Patients tell her of their lives during the pandemic. Some miss their grandchildren. Some are unable to visit their parents in a nursing home.

They welcome the vaccine as a sign of hope in the battle against the virus.

“A lot of people were getting the vaccine to protect their loved ones,” she said. “They were all so happy and so excited be there. Some were leaving in tears—happy tears.”

Some patients recall receiving the first polio vaccines as children and remind Zoodsma she is witnessing history.

She takes pride in her role in providing COVID-19 vaccines.

“It is an honor,” she said. “It is exciting to be a part of something really big.”