“A nurse practitioner wrote on a little piece of paper that she got the vaccine for my dad,” said his daughter, Andrea Araujo.
“She wrote, ‘For my boss and my friend who died weeks before getting the vaccine. #ForDrAraujo.’ It was sad but also really nice.”
Araujo Preza was 51 when he died on November 30 in the same intensive care unit where he served as critical care medical director at HCA Houston Healthcare in Tomball, Texas.
More than 240,000 health care workers have been infected with coronavirus and nearly 900 have died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For their families — and those of the more than 300,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19 — the long-awaited vaccine is a source of hope in a year of despair. But it comes too late.
A ‘bittersweet’ moment
“I hope this is the first step in helping other people not go through what my family has gone through,” Andrea Araujo said. “I hope we’re headed in the right direction.”
Hope is hard work in a country that has surpassed its own hospitalization record for more than a dozen consecutive days.
“As I was walking to go get my vaccine, I actually had just heard that my 27th patient died, so it was very emotional,” she said.
‘The burden of fear had been lifted’
Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, got the shot from Dr. Michelle Chester, the corporate director of employee health services at Northwell Health.
“Everyday since March that I entered work has … gotten darker and darker,” Lindsay said Friday night on the CNN Town Hall “The Color of Covid — The Vaccines.”
“I have seen the effects of it. And I don’t want to see you end up in one of our ICU beds or enter our hospitals.”
She added, “I have been saying to my colleagues, in my 26 and a half years of nursing, I have never felt so afraid. After the shot … I applauded. I felt like the burden of fear had been lifted off my shoulders.”
“We have to acknowledge that this … mistrust comes from a historical place,” Adams, who is Black, told CNN. “But we also have to explain to people that we put protections in place to make sure this could never happen again.
“When you look at Covid-19, the fact that you are three to five times more likely to end up in a hospital and/or die if you’re African American, Hispanic, or Native American, those are wrongs that are going on right now.”
No reservations about getting the vaccine
Araujo Preza was born in El Salvador and came to the US in 1994 to continue his medical education. He studied at Staten Island University Hospital in New York and Tulane University in New Orleans. In 2001, he moved to the Houston area, where he worked as a pulmonologist for nearly two decades.
In April, during the height of the pandemic’s first wave, he slept in the hospital for nearly a month to be on call, according to his daughter. When he fell ill in October, he downplayed his condition so not to worry his family.
Araujo Preza was admitted to the ICU in early November, and remained there about a week and a half. He had barely been out of the hospital 48 hours before he was readmitted. When his condition worsened he was transferred to Houston Methodist Hospital and later placed on a ventilator. He never returned home.
“For my whole life he always worked really hard and was very dedicated to his patients and his practice,” Andrea Araujo said. “And more this year than ever before he exemplified that.”
She has no reservations about receiving the vaccine, she said.
“I’m not a health professional but I know that my dad wanted to get the vaccine,” Araujo said. “And so that gives me confidence. Whenever I have the opportunity to get it, I will.”
“There’s a great opportunity in front of us,” the 29-year-old engineer said. “We can’t change what’s already happened and, moving forward, I definitely want health care workers with 29-year-old sons to not have to have the interview we’re doing now.”
Since her death, Yap-Banago’s family always fixes a small plate for her at dinner. They often turn the TV to her favorite station — The Hallmark Channel, which she would watch as she drifted off to sleep.
“Mom would be excited and relieved for sure, to know that there is a vaccine developed to help us, to help front line workers fight this terrible enemy,” Banago said.
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, Catherine E. Shoichet, Christina Maxouris, Eric Levenson, and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.