Northwell Health critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay made history when she was the first person in the United States to get the COVID-19 vaccine on December of 2020.
Her journey that included a trip to the White House to be honored by President Joe Biden also took her back to her native country of Jamaica, where the healthcare system was swamped by the coronavirus.
"When I walked out from the airport and that sun hit my face, I was just overwhelmed with joy," Lindsey said. "By the next week, they were completely overwhelmed."
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For Lindsay, that joy of being back home in Jamaica last August, the place where she grew up, was soon peppered with fear about how the healthcare system there would cope with what was to come.
"We had patients who were in the hallways," Jamaica Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Ingram-Martin said. "We had patients who were in the emergency room."
Lindsay said that at the height of the Delta variant, the COVID positivity rate in Jamaica was above 50%, and the country's vaccination rate was about 22%.
"I left with a new mission," she said. "I know that I work for a great organization."
Northwell, with an entire distribution center on Long Island filled with supplies for fighting COVID, would soon be on board. Within 24 hours, Lindsay got her CEO on the phone to secure more than $800,000 worth of PPE and oxygen concentrators to present to her country.
Lindsay also headed to the United Nations to speak about fighting the pandemic globally. Still a self-proclaimed introvert, Lindsay never imagined any of this in her wildest dreams.
"No, all I dreamt about was becoming a nurse," Lindsey said.
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Still, she believes the mission is much bigger than her, though she admits she had no idea where this moment would take her more than two years ago.
"I was saying goodbye, I have to go back to work," she said. "And that's when I learned that no, no, no, not so fast."
She teaches so many about giving back while also staying focused, all without ever forgetting her roots.
"It's OK to dream," she said. "I did a lot of dreaming."
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