By SHANNON KELLY, News and Advance
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — When COVID-19 vaccines became available, retired registered nurse and local resident Hanna Burruss began training to administer vaccines as a volunteer.
But with her husband being at high risk for complications from the virus, and having the time-consuming responsibilities of training a puppy, Burruss had to give up her desire to serve as a vaccinator.
“I’ve been a nurse most of my life,” Burruss said. “It was hard to let go of the idea that I could help others. It was really hard to face that.”
Although she was deeply disappointed that she couldn’t give the shot, Burruss found a creative way to support those giving out vaccines – unique and fun headgear that could put a smile on many faces.
Burruss, 68, started this style of crafting when he was 17. In what she calls “artifact jewelry,” Burruss has created things like a necklace with parts of an old flint from Afghanistan and, more recently, a biker helmet studded with syringes and spikes called “The Vaccinator”.
While she was still planning on being a vaccine administrator, Burruss made herself a special hat for herself. The idea was to make shooting less intimidating.
“At one point in my career, I also worked in pediatrics, with children, so you always need to have fun when you’re dealing with injections and children, you know? Sometimes it makes things better, sometimes it doesn’t, but anything that helps helps,” Burruss said.
Instead, Burruss gave this hat to a Richmond-area friend and doctor, always making sure it was put to good use. With this gesture, Burruss realized there might be a different, but still meaningful, way to help support vaccinators who were working hard to meet the demand for COVID-19 vaccines.
While walking through Walmart one day, Burruss said she saw something that immediately inspired her for her next headgear project: a studded motorcycle helmet that would be called “The Vaccinator.”
“I saw this bike helmet. It was black, and it had these beards on top. I saw it and immediately knew what I wanted to do,” Burruss said.
The spikes, she said, represent the spikes of the COVID-19 virus seen under a microscope. Burruss then studded the helmet with syringes in a nod to the many vaccines administered to help tackle the pandemic’s death rates.
Burruss knew exactly who she wanted to gift this helmet to.
Over the past few years, Burruss has met a senior pharmacy technician who works at Walgreens Pharmacy on Boonsboro Road: Dont’e Jones. The two formed a friendship as they periodically interacted.
Around the start of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Burruss said he noticed Jones looking particularly tired. That day he told her that he had given 80 injections. Between COVID-19 and flu shots, Jones said he’s been constantly busy vaccinating, averaging 60 to 80 shots a day last fall, an amount that recently dwindled to around 40 shots a day. day.
Burruss wanted to do something to make his friend smile and thank him for his service to the community. Shortly after this meeting, just after Halloween, she gave him The Vaccinator helmet.
“I met him and said, ‘I’ve got something for you,'” Burruss said. “We went back to the vaccination room and I said, ‘I’m giving you this to honor you as a vaccinator. You are one of our heroes. And I handed it to him, and he immediately burst out laughing.
Jones said he had no idea Burruss was working on such a thing for him. In his 14 years working for this local Walgreens pharmacy, no customer had done anything like this.
“She kept saying she had a present for me, they appreciated the work we all did at our store,” Jones said. “It was kind of shocking that I got a name out of it, to be known as ‘The Vaccinator’.”
The helmet has been a hit with kids and adults alike, Jones said of customer feedback. He and his team of about 18 pharmacy workers, he added, also appreciated the gesture as they continue to work to serve their community.
Since The Vaccinator arrived at Walgreens on Boonsboro Road, Burruss said she’s seen pharmacy workers sharing it, taking turns carrying the equipment while continuing to administer COVID-19 injections.
Burruss said the gesture was not meant to put himself on a pedestal; she was just happy to help elevate the hard-working people to help keep the public safe and healthy.
“Somehow I finally felt like I accomplished something, even though it wasn’t what I thought it would be,” Burruss said.
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