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A Step Toward Normal: Those Getting Vaccinated in Ohio County Express Relief, Excitement

Photo by Derek Redd James Conley sits and receives his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine during Ohio County’s Thursday clinic at The Highlands. Many people attending the clinic said getting vaccinated makes them more hopeful for a return to a more normal life in the future.

TRIADELPHIA — Phyllis Danehart would love to play cards with her brothers. Allan Connolly can’t wait to see his granddaughter again. Sue Mendenhall wants to go to the grocery store without being nervous.

Those three and many others got one step closer to those wishes Thursday. As they sat following their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination clinic at The Highlands, they allowed their thoughts to turn toward a future that felt a little more normal.

Those inoculated at Thursday’s clinic, which was for Ohio County residents ages 65 and older, will return in a month for the second dose.

Soon after, they’ll be fully protected from the virus that has turned everyday lives on their ears and left people longing for the days where they could congregate with family and friends without either getting sick or worrying about getting someone else sick.

“You don’t even want to talk to somebody,” Danehart said. “You’re afraid you’ll give them something or they’ll give you something. It’s not normal. We’re human beings. We’re supposed to be around each other.”

Connolly’s 2-year old granddaughter lives in Columbus, Ohio, but he hasn’t been able to see her for a year. He’s diabetic and has wanted to be extra careful in going out in public. He hopes to see his granddaughter in June for her third birthday, and he admits that the wait has been — and still is — pretty tough.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Connolly said. “I’ve been wanting to go see her, but I didn’t want to take any chances.”

It’s not just the special occasions that those at The Highlands on Thursday yearned for. They wanted to return to the mundane parts of life that became so much more complicated after the pandemic sank its claws into the United States.

And the older a person is, the more dangerous the virus becomes. According to statistics from the West Virginia state government, 92 percent of deaths in the state are in residents age 60 and older.

James Conley is 78 and said he and his wife don’t go too many places. But he wanted to get vaccinated so that he could carry on with everyday tasks.

“If I would get it, it would probably be the end of me,” James Conley said. “You’ve got to go to the grocery store and to the doctor’s office. You take a chance every time you go out.”

At 90 years old, Mendenhall remains stunned that her neighbors, and the rest of the world, are dealing with an unprecedented dilemma.

“I just can’t believe we’re all going through this in our lives,” she said. “It’s just unbelievable, I think.”

Just as unbelievable for many was the combination of joy and relief that came when they got the phone call telling them that their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was waiting for them at The Highlands. Some had grown frustrated after striking out on earlier vaccination clinics, where they stayed on the phone for more than an hour only to hear a busy signal.

Registration for this clinic went through the state’s Everbridge system, so the next call they got about a vaccine was a happy one.

“It was like I hit the lottery,” Danehart said.

Lines moved smoothly Thursday, from the registration table to the several vaccine stations to the waiting area where medical personnel monitored people for any side effects. Those who went through the clinic lauded those working it for their kindness and efficiency.

George Smoulder can’t wait for others to share the feeling he and his wife got to have Thursday.

“I want them to be able to get the vaccine as quickly as possible,” Smoulder said. “I want to thank God for helping the scientists to find the vaccine. I want everyone as soon as possible to get the vaccine so we all can be protected.”

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