United by more than a vaccine

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Interconnected trio first to receive shots

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  • Lucy Hudgeons and Lor-Anne Gibans said they were excited and anxious to receive the first vaccines in Gunnison County. Kate Gienapp
    Lucy Hudgeons and Lor-Anne Gibans said they were excited and anxious to receive the first vaccines in Gunnison County. Kate Gienapp

Hundreds of Gunnison County residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19. But the first three vaccinated will go down in the record books for not only starting the immunization process but also for the connections in health care, marriage and mutual dependence they share.

Dr. Shay Krier, who works as Gunnison Valley Health’s (GVH) EMS medical director and as an emergency medical physician was pricked with the needle first, followed by his wife and fellow healthcare worker LorAnne Gibans. GVH Senior Care Center resident Lucy Hudgeons was next in line.

Gibans works in internal medicine at both GVH and the Senior Care Center, so she was also well acquainted with Hudgeons.

“It was a little bit of a shock at first but it was also really exciting, and I was glad we had Lucy there;’ Gibans said.

Hudgeons, 73, has resided at the Senior Care Center since 2017. Originally from Pennsylvania, Hudgeons made the move to the Gunnison Valley in 1993. After visiting a close friend in Lake City, Hudgeons knew the small town would be a good fit.

Being the first person in the facility to receive the vaccine was exciting for both her and her son.

The moment before Hudgeons was vaccinated she said she was a little nervous, but mostly excited.

“I was kind of tingling all over, goosebumps I guess,” Hudgeons said.

But as a big believer in vaccines and being accustomed to shots in general, Hudgeons said the procedure was relatively painless.

Hudgeons hopes less restrictive measures will be allowed for more freedom in the future. One of the hardest parts for seniors has been the months of isolation.

“I’ve pretty much been isolated since last March,” Hudgeons said. “I guess you get used to it, you don’t necessarily grow to like it, but you have to do what you have to do.”

To pass the time, Hudgeons said she reads a lot and watches TV on occasion.

For Gibans, seeing those she works alongside and cares for receive the vaccine has given her hope in a hard situation.

Gibans agreed that there won’t be any immediate changes in terms of following public health guidelines. There is still a long way to go before Gunnison County has a majority of residents vaccinated.

“We’ll have to continue with the masks and social distancing for a while, which makes sense;’ Hudgeons said.

“I would just emphasize that this doesn’t change anything immediately; Krier said.

Krier was caught with emotion on the evening he was vaccinated.

“For me it’s going to be huge;’ Krier said. “It’s just one fewer worry!’

It’s been a long journey for health care workers but having her husband in the same field has helped, Gibans said.

“It’s been tough, we look out for each other all the time and we can always talk to each other too,” Gibans said.

For those who don’t take the virus seriously, Gibans said they should walk a day in her shoes.

On top of treating COVID patients, the couple also cares for patients who are in need of medical care.

While the hospital has yet to be overrun by patients the impacts to the community from COVID-19 hit close to home.

“Even patients that were sick but didn’t have COVID, they would tear up just thinking, ‘Are you sure I don’t have COVID?”’ Gibans said.

The level of terror from patients and healthcare workers has been hard to witness. And the impacts to mental health are also increasing for GVH with more patients reporting depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues.

In that vein, Gibans considers herself fortunate to have the understanding of her husband, Krier.

“When we have our very low moments we know we have each other for support,” Gibans said. “There are nights we come home from work and just tear up and talk it over.”

Emergency services have been a struggle amid the pandemic, with EMS workers being among the first to be potentially exposed to the virus. Even attending to someone who’s simply broken a bone could lead to an exposure.

“It’s awesome, this is the beginning of the end,” Krier said.

(Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com.)