SALT LAKE CITY — The first Utah veterans living in a long-term care facility received COVID-19 vaccines at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City Monday.
It was a life-changing opportunity for Dana Hare, 39, who served two tours in Iraq and is now undergoing a substance abuse program as a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s been in the hospital for more than two months.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the first person,” Hare told KSL. “I want to start meeting with people I know and love. I want to get these masks off and start meeting again.”
Hare said the isolation as a result of COVID-19 has been hard to handle.
“It’s been difficult, that’s already a symptom of our disease. We need interaction with our families — that’s one of the things that keeps us healthy,” Hare said.
That’s the same feeling for veteran Christian Smith, 41, who is also going through a substance abuse program to get his life back in order. He was the second person at the hospital to get vaccinated.
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“I feel a little guilty. I’m 41. I think there are people older who need it,” Smith told KSL. He said the isolation has also been very challenging for him as he tries to recover from his PTSD.
“It really affected my recovery and I immediately started struggling. It really, really hurt my recovery,” he said.
Administrators at the medical center said Monday was a huge day to get the doors back open for these veterans.
“It’s better than Christmas,” said Ashley Phillips, the chief nurse of primary care at the medical center. “I want to be able to give all of our veterans that vaccine as soon as possible so they can be reengaged in that society. We do not want them to be socially isolated at all.”
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