URBANA — Over the last year, Carle Foundation Hospital emergency physician Melissa Huston has learned to presume one thing about her patients, no matter what type of ailment they come in with.
“Right now, you just assume everybody has” COVID-19, she said. “You dress appropriate for it and work up everybody for it.”
Now that the emergency department at Carle is testing all patients for COVID-19, she’s seen all sorts of patients who don’t come in with respiratory symptoms test positive for the virus, so she’s always ready.
That’s why she breathed a massive a sigh of relief when vaccines were approved and studies were released in November. While she admits she was originally skeptical as companies raced to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible, she was blown away by what she saw.
“I couldn’t imagine the profile and safety and efficacy of it,” she said. “I honestly was a little nervous about accepting a new vaccine that had only been tested for nine months.”
“I wasn’t going to jump on board with the vaccine, but seeing the statistics about it is so reassuring, especially when faced with the option of getting COVID and the side effects of COVID,” she said. “It’s wonderful. Quite a modern-day scientific medical marvel that they were able to come up with these great vaccines so quickly and safely.”
When she was able to receive the vaccine, with the first dose coming Dec. 30 and the second a week ago, she was eager to share. Huston had seen a request for photo submissions for the “Champaign-Urbana COVID Vaccine Outreach” group on Facebook, which posts photos of reputable people in the community who have received the vaccine, so she gladly submitted.
One of the photos she sent was an homage a Rosie the Riveter-themed image that was posted in a Facebook group for physicians, which shows the iconic World War II-era character striking her iconic flexing pose while wearing a mask with a Band-Aid on her shoulder.
Members of the group then post their own photos in any pose with a hashtag.
Celina Trujillo, administrator of the Facebook page, said while Huston’s photo might lose a bit of its effect without Rosie alongside her, it’s nevertheless been one of the more attention-grabbing photos in the group.
“In my mind, I was trying to be like, ‘We can do it,’” Huston said with a laugh. “In the context without the Rosie the Riveter (poster), I don’t know if people just think I’m flexing and just showing my muscles off. … I’ve gotten ribbed a lot for that.”
Huston has seen the perils of COVID-19 up close, both at work and in her personal life. A 32-year-old she knew from her hometown died from the virus, but it isn’t just the deaths that concern her. Another person close to her, who was young, fit and healthy, has had long-term damage to their lungs long after their last positive test.
At the hospital, she said she’s seen patients have pacemakers put in after initially recovering from the virus, and she’s seen athletes tested for damage to their hearts and lungs.
As someone who wasn’t ready to accept just any vaccine, she said can’t see a logical reason why a vast majority of people shouldn’t get the ones available now.
“To have a vaccine that’s so safe and so efficacious,” she said, “it’s a no-brainer to me that people should want to get it.”