Ruth, 82, has had the first part of her coronavirus vaccine and is eagerly awaiting her second. She knows better than most how important vaccinations are, as she explains, recalling events that took place more than 65 years ago.
“I remember in the height of the coronavirus outbreak last year, when it didn't look like there was any vaccine on the horizon, it was bleak. I thought to myself: if I get it, I get it; if I die, I die. I've got to die sometime. I'm not worried about dying. It's the people you leave behind you worry about.”
“That being said, when I read the news that a coronavirus vaccine was being developed, I was so pleased. Everything was so straightforward when I got mine recently. I received a text message from the doctors with an appointment to get my jab. The volunteers were lovely, and it was all so well organised. I just went through, no problem at all, got my vaccine and came out again. They got everyone to wait around for 15 minutes just to check that there were no problems. I barely felt that I had it. My husband had it too, and now we're waiting for the second doses.”
“I hope everyone gets the vaccine. I know how important they are.”
“In 1955, when I was 17, I became ill. It was almost Christmas and I was working as a nurse at a children's hospital. The home sister, the nurse in charge, took me off the ward and put me to bed. They didn't want me staying at the hospital because I wasn't well, so they phoned my mum and dad, who hired a car and came to pick me up on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, I felt so ill. My leg had gone dead and I was speaking strangely out the side of my face.”
I remember [the doctor] saying, 'I think you've got polio'. I was whisked off to an isolation hospital. It was scary.
“My mum took me to the doctors and I remember him saying, 'I think you've got polio'. I was whisked off to an isolation hospital. It was scary. I remember having to be in a room by myself and then the lumbar punctures I had to have. They were horrid. I had to lie on my side and they put a big needle into my spine to get the spinal fluid out, which they tested. It was then they confirmed I had polio.”
“I'm so fortunate that I didn't have to end up in an iron lung. They're basically coffins that help you breathe, where you lie in it with just your head sticking out of the top. Everybody in the hospital, patients and staff, had to be vaccinated. The Salk vaccine had only recently been developed in America and that's what they were all given.”
“In those days, unless your head was falling off, you went to work and that was it. There was no being off sick unless you were really incapacitated, which meant that there was a large amount of time I was still working ill on the ward before I was diagnosed with polio. I just hoped that none of those children got anything from me.”
I hope that people carry on being sensible and safe until everyone gets their vaccine.
“Eventually, I recovered. I haven’t really got any lasting effects from it. I tend to fall over on the side of my left foot sometimes, but that’s all. I was very, very fortunate. It could have been so much worse.”
“I just hope that people carry on being sensible and safe until everyone gets their vaccine. I am worried that everyone will just get their vaccine and think it's fine to go straight back to normal. I think that will take some time.”
Words of encouragement
It's not just Ruth who's had her vaccine, whether the first or both doses. Here's what you've been telling us about your experiences and hopes for the future now you've received them.
I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I’m now better protected from this terrible virus. Another thought I’ve had since the start of this pandemic is that the laws of nature might suggest that the virus takes its course and culls the old and weak, but what we have seen is humanity overriding this through family, love, and care in the community.
Getting the vaccine gives me peace of mind that if I contracted COVID-19, I would have some help for my immune system to fight it. Do not be worried about having the vaccine: the side effects are minimal, and the biggest side effects from not having it could be death.
What I am looking forward to most is having my family around my table again and hugging my grandchildren. Everyone should have the vaccination, if not for them, then for future generations. Don't be afraid of it.
Share your stories with us
Has receiving the vaccine made you feel more positive for the future? What are your hopes now that more and more people are getting it? Do you have any worries? We want to hear from you.