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It was a historic week. The arrival of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine spread a sense of hope across the country. Doctors and nurses on the frontlines are calling the milestone the beginning of the end.

Some arrived before the sun. Others rolled in to applause. 

It was history. And it came in a tiny bottle.  

Tracy Everett is an emergency medicine nurse at Cook County Health’s Stroger Hospital.  

On the day she received her vaccination she said, “Today is a very happy day for me because today is light at the end of the tunnel. I come to work every day because this is what I signed up to do, to be a nurse, to take care of others, to take care of the underserved population that really needs my help. I’m very proud that I was able to survive and not get COVID myself and be here today to get the injection.”  

Dr. Jaime Moreno grew up near Mount Sinai Hospital. The emergency room physician has treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients. 

“There’s never a boring day at Sinai,” Moreno said. “You see how entire families are affected. You’ve had multiple family members come in sick and multiple members pass away.” 

Moreno was “excited” to get the vaccine. 

“We’ve all been wishing for this day. It’s historic that it finally came and that it came so quickly,” Moreno said. “It’s a very welcome day. We needed something to turn the tide. We’re not doing too well so this is a very big day.” 

Vaccinations ran late into the evening at Amita Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale.

“It’s like Christmas,” said certified nurse midwife Kelly Aten. “Everyone is on edge and excited and ready to get going with this.”

Each injection was carefully documented on paper and for posterity. 

“Every time I come into the hospital, you always wonder, ‘Is today going to be the day I take my mask off at the wrong time? Or I rub my eyes in an inopportune time?’” Dr Leslie Sleuwen said. “And I go home to a family, and I’m always concerned am I bringing something home to them.” 

COVID has been a constant in their professional lives. But for some, it’s personal.  

Certified nurse midwife Jaci Noto’s father Rick Bender was only 61-years-old when he passed away. 

“My dad died one month ago today from COVID,” she said. “I didn’t get to see him. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m often the support person for clients who can’t have all the family they might want to attend the birth. But I couldn’t go be the support person for my person. So anything we can do to reduce numbers is imperative.” 

“I think it’s great Chicagoland has been able to get the vaccine and the healthcare workers are getting vaccinated so that we can continue on and take care of patients and not get sick ourselves,” Sleuwen said.  

“I believe this is hope,” said Tracy Everett. “I’m very hopeful.”