Playing Witness to the COVID-19 Vaccine and Its Life-Changing Effects

Bill Fairbairn

The final leg of a coronavirus vaccination site reveals the recent trauma of the pandemic, and the arrival of hope.

Serving as a greeter at the final checkpoint of the Tucson Medical Center (TMC) COVID-19 vaccination operation provides many opportunities to witness relief, joy, gratitude, and even love. These frontline battle-hardened providers have been through an experience few ever imagined, one continually changing their lives forever. Staffing the final stop before they head back to reality, I’m able to witness history unfold in real-time. So many have a brief moment to reflect on what they’ve been through with the knowledge the vaccine should be the beginning of the end of this worldwide pandemic. All are deeply appreciative of Team Rubicon’s on-site services in this multi-team effort.

One particular doctor came through the exit station after receiving the first round of vaccinations and seemed to be tolerating the injection well, with no visible side effects or symptoms. As we shared a few minutes together, waiting for the mandatory post-injection 15-minute observation window to pass, I posed the question that would change my life forever. “May I ask where you work and what do you do?” The answer: COVID-19 emergency room trauma doctor. 

With that, this hero began uncontrollably sobbing tears of pain, compassion, and relief, seemingly reliving every death, loss, and painful experience caused to COVID-19 victims and victims’ families, as well, perhaps, as pure joy knowing the vaccines have finally arrived after being developed and tested at record speed. Tears flowed freely, and for good reason.

Then the doctor struggled for composure and, after what seemed like the longest minute of silence ever, announced it was his first day off in two weeks. Fatigue had taken over, and he tried apologizing for the emotional outpouring. Through additional tears—now both the doctor and this Greyshirt were misty-eyed—the doctor told me how simple it could be to beat this virus if everyone just took basic precautions in their daily lives, if for only a short time. He went on to say TMC’s vaccine process was the best organized event ever he’d witnessed. (It was a comment heard time and again from a majority of frontline workers coming through the vaccination station.)

Greyshirts at the Tuscon Medical Center drive-thru vaccination site set up by Team Rubicon.

In just the handful of moments the doctor and I shared I got to see the dedication, love, and spirit of a warrior battling to survive just one more day. Exhausted from battle, yet willing to fight another day, he was ready to press forward to the end. I doubt our paths will ever cross again, but they don’t need to. His deep, heartfelt outpouring of emotion proved to me we are honestly going to win this battle.

One cannot imagine what these professionals have been through, nor know how their lives will forever be altered by the heroic acts they perform on a daily basis. My first days serving with Team Rubicon have shown me the powerful goodness of mankind, and it’s very rewarding to know all Team Rubicon personnel are providing valuable services required by so many in this historic time of need. 

Greyshirt Bill Fairbairn at the Tuscon COVID-19 vaccination site.

Editor’s note: Team Rubicon stood up the Pima County vaccination site for Tucson Medical Center on December 17, 2020. In the first four days of operation, TMC vaccinated 3,500 frontline workers.

Read More Stories