'We found a way to live through the chaos'

David Weiss, RN, University of Vermont Medical Center
Portrait of David Wiess, an RN, wearing a mask. He is facing the camera with a vaccination clinic behind him.

Decades before David Weiss, RN, began administering vaccines, he was a 10-year-old boy with a mysterious autoimmune disorder, requesting permission to start his own IV.

From a childhood crowded by a parade of health care professionals, Weiss evolved into a college student who couldn’t wait to work in health care. As an EMT while at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, and now as a nurse in the Emergency Department, he fulfills his childhood wish every day: He starts IVs, gives medication and hooks patients up to cardiac monitors, sometimes during life-threatening situations.

But it’s his work at the Champlain Valley Expo over the past several months that he describes as “monumental.” He has been there since the center opened in December.

For Weiss, it’s all about providing hope to others: To the first responder who no longer has to worry as much about COVID-19 exposures on the job; to the grandfather who will now get to meet his first grandchild in person; to the 80- and 90-year-olds who come in and high-five each other … and occasionally bring thank-you chocolates to the staff.

“When we first heard about medical center folks and first responders getting the vaccines, I thought – I’ve seen COVID in the ED, how cool would it be to vaccinate my co-workers, police officers and provide comfort?” Weiss says. “When I vaccinate other health care workers, they’re so relieved and excited to feel protected in their jobs.”

The vaccination experience offers a bright contrast to the realities of COVID-19; Weiss has lost one family member to COVID-19 and several others have been hospitalized.

Like many of the other 100-plus nurses who have administered shots at the Essex vaccination site, he speaks passionately of the camaraderie of the place. “We aim high – we’re all in it together,” he says. “It’s a really happy place, unlike anything else.”

Weiss seems to thrive on the general optimism of this moment in time. “Each smiling face of a community member who I vaccinate serves as a reminder that we have hopefully turned a corner,” he says. “Each smile represents a year of anxiety and confusion, but also hope to a return to hugging our parents, families and friends.”

When asked what he’ll tell his future grandchildren about the COVID-19 pandemic, Weiss says he’ll mention how strange it was to help set up a field hospital in the place where, as a college student years earlier, he had wandered around blissfully eating French fries at the fair. He’ll tell them about his great pride in being a part of a historic effort, with a great group of people.

But most important, he says, “I’ll tell them that we found a way to live through the chaos of it all, and we helped people get through it. It’s been the most incredible thing I’ve ever done.”

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