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95-Year-Old Former Nurse Reflects On Life In The Pandemic, Vaccine Rollout


We spoke with a charming and vibrant person last summer, Virginia Chandler. She's a former nurse who lives in the Quail Run Assisted Living Center in Albany, Ore. And, of course, she's had to spend most of her time in her room over these past few months because of COVID restrictions. She told us that she appreciated that the relative isolation might keep her safe, but it was not good for her spirits. We wanted to catch up with Virginia Chandler.

Firstly, happy New Year.

VIRGINIA CHANDLER: Thank you. Happy New Year to you, too.

SIMON: And how are you doing?

CHANDLER: I'm doing fine. I noticed here that the people who come from large families have more difficult time during the holidays than...

SIMON: Yeah.

CHANDLER: ...Do I, who was an only child. And I have a friend here who is also an only child. And we seem to do better because during the holidays, we might go to see Grandma or Grandpa, but it never was a big hoopla like it is for a family that has a lot of children.

SIMON: Yeah. When we spoke, you had a friend living in a nearby wing who was ill.


SIMON: How is she doing? Can you tell us?

CHANDLER: She died.

SIMON: Oh, my God. I'm so sorry.

CHANDLER: Well, you know, when you live here, you learn to accept that. It's...

SIMON: Yeah.

CHANDLER: We understand we're here for our last days. It's just that you want them to be sure that they have the things they need to be comforted in those days.

SIMON: You - you've had a birthday - right? - in December.

CHANDLER: December the 5th. I was 95 years old. I'll now be 96 my next birthday (laughter).

SIMON: You know, I hope we can talk to you then.

CHANDLER: (Laughter) I hope so, too.

SIMON: Have you heard anything about the vaccine?

CHANDLER: Yes. I asked the other day when it was coming, and they said in a couple of weeks. They didn't know exactly when it was coming, but pretty soon. Having worked in the Linn County health department for 12 years, I learned a lot about immunizations. In fact, I gave most of the immunizations. And there's a lot to be considered when you're giving vaccines. And having worked during the time the polio vaccine was being devised - really, they were trying to make up their mind which ones of the polio vaccines would work best - and having been through that, I have a lot of questions, one of the questions being that they mentioned that the vaccine, some of them needed to be kept in a very cold temperature. Knowing how slovenly some people can be, I'm questioning, did you keep that vaccine at the right temperature?

SIMON: Yeah.

CHANDLER: Because I'd hate to get a shot and it not be any good (laughter).

SIMON: Yeah. I understand. But you're going to get a shot. That's your intention?

CHANDLER: Oh, yes. There's a lot of people here that say they won't get it. But they're good things to have, and you don't need to worry about it. Of all the thousands of shots that I gave, I don't remember of a single one that we had any real stressful situation from it.

SIMON: Well, I hope we can talk with you again, maybe after you get your vaccine.

CHANDLER: That'll be fine.

SIMON: Virginia Chandler, a retired nurse and bon vivant who's an assisted living resident in Albany, Ore., thanks so much for being with us.

CHANDLER: You're welcome. Have a good year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALVIN BATISTE'S "LATE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.