Curtis Amory ’23 is an English major and music minor from Boxborough, Massachusetts

12-Hour Shift

Combating COVID-19, one shot at a time


Curtis Amory ’23

Working for St. Lawrence Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in fall 2020 was difficult but rewarding. New COVID-related TOPs (Temporary Operating Procedures) and different types of calls made it a challenge for all of our providers to serve campus as we normally would.

My commitment to helping the North Country through the pandemic was intensified when in January 2021, while home for break, I, and several people I love, contracted COVID-19. My girlfriend, a good friend, and I all had moderate to severe cases. I got better within a few weeks, but Brenna and Logan had more complicated recoveries. Logan and I were 20, and Brenna was 19.

After experiencing firsthand the damage COVID can do, and knowing the fear of watching people I care about get sick and hospitalized, EMS was not enough. I needed a more tangible way of fighting the pandemic. It is why I chose to work at a vaccination clinic and administer as many vaccines as possible.

March 2021

06:00

My alarm goes off, but I’m already half awake. I usually don’t get a lot of rest of Thursday because I’m paranoid about sleeping through my alarm and being late to work.

I get out of bed slowly, so my roommate Rowan doesn’t wake up. The little dip in the floor creaks as I stand and stretch out my perpetually sore neck. EMT pants, a St. Lawrence University EMS sweatshirt, “Vaccinate NY” T-shirt, boots, and tiger socks (my high school wrestling team’s mascot) are all waiting next to my desk. I dress quietly, slip on my watch and favorite necklace—a black and silver replica of Tolkien’s One Ring—grab my keys, and ease the door open. The backpack and medical kit I always take with me are waiting downstairs. Save a quick stop for energy drinks, I drive straight to the vaccination clinic located nine miles away.

06:50

It’s mostly light when I arrive at the clinic. I park at the far end of the lot, walk through several puddles, and through the heavy double doors. Two soldiers at a table ask me if I feel unwell or if I’ve had contact with sick people. Two more down the hall take my temperature before I am allowed into the giant staff room filled with dozens of plastic tables. I sign in; drop my keys, jacket, and backpack at one of the tables; and make for the pile of breakfast sandwiches by the door. Bacon egg and cheeses on croissants today—nice.

07:15

A microphone crackles, and the morning announcements start. Yesterday was busy, and we’re expecting upward of 2,000 people to come through today. Twenty-six stations will be open, which is far more than usual.

07:30

Immediately, people come through nonstop. My first interactions with patients are routine. They arrive, sit down, and give me their ID. I ask them the screening questions. “Are you feeling sick today? Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days or been asked to isolate or quarantine? Have you ever been treated with antibody therapy or convalescent plasma for COVID-19?” And so on. They answer “no” to every question, tell me how they qualify, and what arm they want the shot in. No nerves, no blood, no problem. I fill out the paperwork and online documentation, and they’re on their way. Before I can clean my station, two more patients arrive. This is how it will be for the next 12 hours.

09:45

I feel steady and confident. The work is smooth and quick, nothing dramatic so far, and I’m still riding my initial caffeine high. A woman approaches with a child in tow who looks about 13 or 14 and is obviously very, very nervous.

The mother answers all of the questions, and I soon learn the child has a serious pre-existing condition. I don’t linger on it, for many reasons, but I feel a little heaviness in the pit of my stomach knowing their story. They seem smart and kind, and I think about how the clinic work has exposed more tragedies than COVID-19.

The moment I roll my chair over with a bandage, alcohol wipe, and needle in hand, they tense up. Their mother looks at me a little helpless and a little resigned, so I take it slow.

“I promise this isn’t a bad shot. A lot of people don’t even feel it,” I tell them. “I’m just going to roll up your sleeve a little, OK? The last guy I had didn’t even notice! When he said, ‘Can you hurry up?’ I told him I was already done!”

I wipe their left deltoid with the cold alcohol wipe in big, circular motions and tear open the bandage package.

“Here, let’s take a sec. Take some deep breaths; shake out your arms a little. Cool. You see that rock wall over there?” I uncap the needle. They seem a little more relaxed.

“I really love rock climbing. I’ve never been outside properly, just at walls like that. It’s super fun, but I haven’t been doing it much lately.” I gently but swiftly insert the needle, inject the vaccine, withdraw the needle, then apply the bandage. They flinch a little, but they visibly perk up as soon as I’m finished.

“Great job, you’re all done! Here’s your time card for observation and have a great day!”

The gratitude on the mother’s face keeps me going for the rest of the shift.

10:40

I close my station temporarily after about four hours. It’s time for my own second dose of the Moderna vaccine, but I must drive back to Canton. I arrive at Leithead Fieldhouse just a couple of minutes late and walk quickly and urgently inside, through the winding hallways and onto the artificial turf. 

12:00

By the time I’m back at the vaccination clinic, unfortunately, the side effects of my second dose are already kicking in—a bad headache and almost immediate heavy, dragging fatigue. It’s one patient after another. I haven’t eaten since 7 a.m., and my head is pounding, but I’m determined to make up for the hour I missed getting my second dose—only seven hours to go.

16:30

Another patient walks over to my station. They ask me to pull their ID out of their shirt pocket for them and their registration ticket out of their computer case. I go through all my screening questions and prepare the syringe.

“Allright, which arm?”

“My leg, please.”

“We usually prefer an arm. The right or left deltoid specifically. Maybe left?”

“I don’t have any arms. Can you do my leg?”

“Um…let me call a nurse over. Sorry.”

Both of their arms are prosthetic. How did I miss that? The feeling in the pit of my stomach returns, and my headache intensifies as I kick myself for such a stupid mistake.

18:45

We finally close, and I stumble back to the table where I left my backpack and other belongings. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this exhausted. But as tiredness goes, it’s the best kind. 

Today, I saw a couple at least 80 years old walk through the clinic, holding hands the whole time. Later, I (somewhat) successfully used my high school Spanish to communicate with a couple who barely spoke English. I helped the kid that came in with their mom, and many more. While nothing can erase all that happened back in January, fighting the pandemic in such a productive way feels good, and is worth some peace of mind.  


Note: Some details have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.