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Published on August 19, 2021

Nurse shares why vaccine is a must

By: Emily Parnell, MSN RN/CRNI, Manager, Oncology Service Line, Gibson Cancer Center, UNC Health Southeastern

Emily Parnell and her husband, WayneMy family did everything according to the CDC’s recommendations.  We wore our mask, washed our hands, and stayed six feet from others.  We ate at home, wiped down everything that we purchased, and took home take-out food.  That food was placed in another tray to eat.  Yet we got Covid from someone, somewhere from someone that did not.  We tested positive the day after Thanksgiving and my world changed that day.  No longer would there be Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, anniversaries, or birthdays that we could share together on Earth.

My husband, Wayne Parnell, took care of me when we were diagnosed.  I was sicker and then when I got better in three days, he got worse.  He had no energy, no taste or smell, and was extremely weak. He tried to drink Boost, but nothing was helping to get his strength back.  He was trying so hard to get better but in 12 hours he was not any better, so I had no choice but to seek help.

I am a nurse and knew what was happening.  He could not answer questions correctly and was short of breath.  I called 911.  They came to my home and I had to walk with them outside, down the steps, roll him on the stretcher, and put him in an ambulance.  I told him I would see him in the ER, but I forgot I was COVID-19 positive, and I could not be with him.  I drove to the ER and sat in the car, crying for my husband to just be on oxygen and IV medications and come home.  Wayne did not come home that night.

Wayne was taken to the ICU and days tuned into nights and nights into 11 days.  He went from being able to talk to the staff to being placed on a ventilator, lots of IV medications to help his body fight this raging virus, but he did not have much fight left.  This man was a fighter, if you ever knew him you knew he loved God, his family, and loved to live.

I never got to see him in person after December 12, 2020.  Again, I am a nurse and I was supposed to be there in sickness and health, per our wedding vows.  I could not hold his hand, wipe his forehead, whisper comforting words to him, kiss his cheek, or give him a drink of water.  The only hand holding I got to do on the day he passed was through a kind nurse.  He dressed in his PPE, my daughter and I dressed in PPE, and he held my Wayne’s hand for me.  He had to depend on the nurses to do what I should have done.  I sat in the hallway with tears rolling down my face holding the provider’s hand that worked in the ICU.  I could only peek through the massive glass doors with mini-blinds, as he took his last breath. My husband, the love of life, was gone.

You may ask did he want to get the vaccine and, YES, he died wanting the vaccine.  If only we had gotten the vaccine six weeks before we got sick then Wayne would have celebrated Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and all the holidays of 2021.  We talked about this once we knew that it was going to be released.  He said: “Emily, I want to live and if there is a small chance of giving me more time with my family, then it will be worth it.”

My daughter received the vaccine, however, two months ago was diagnosed with COVID-19.  She was all alone and I was so scared that she would not recover but she did because she received the vaccine.  The vaccine made a difference for her and it will for you.  You can stay at home and not need to seek HELP from the ER, or possibly be put on a ventilator and not have your loved ones with you.  I speak from experience when I say you do not want to be at home or in the parking lot, wishing you had just one more day with them or had taken the vaccine.

My family has received that vaccine if they were of age and they did this in memory of Wayne. I urge you to consider taking the vaccine so that my family’s experience with COVID-19 doesn’t become your experience.

Emily Parnell lost her husband, Wayne, in December 2020 after a short battle with COVID-19.

Photos provided and published with permission from Emily Parnell.