Photo contributed by Olivia Bollo ’21
A handful of things are different from a few months ago as Megan Cua ’21 boards a Stratford ambulance where she serves as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Unlike her time interning prior to COVID, Cua is clad in a N95, eye protection, gloves and a gown. Secondly, Cua is now vaccinated for COVID-19.
A few miles away at Norwalk Hospital, Olivia Bollo ’21 anxiously awaits her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. In a few weeks, she too will receive her second dose and continue her EMT work with an extra layer of COVID protection.
Bollo and Cua are two of just a handful of student EMTs who have received their vaccine. The two join more than 75,000 Connecticut residents who have already been vaccinated, according to a press release from Govonver Ned Lamont.
Cua’s work as an EMT began in Westport where she spent anywhere from three to six hours a week responding to calls ranging from sports injuries to car crashes. However, after Westport shut down it’s intern program due COVID, Cua began volunteering in Stratford where her shifts now range from six to 12 hours.
“Being an EMT in COVID is very different than before the pandemic,” Cua said. “I think the craziest thing about it is the fact that we used to not even wear surgical masks when we would go on calls.”
With Stratford averaging about 8,000 calls per year compared to Westport’s 2,000, Cua’s shifts are busy and constantly under the threat of COVID.
“Right now it feels like every other call I go in is a suspected COVID call,” Cua said. “A suspected COVID call means that the patient that calls in has one or more symptoms of COVID – Fever, chills, loss of taste – or has been exposed to a known positive case of COVID […] We act like every call we go on is a positive COVID call.”
Like Cua, Bollo received her training through Westport’s certification program but was delayed from working until December due to Westport’s restrictions.
Despite the protective wear and precautions, Bollo explains there are still ways to contract the virus.
“Obviously if you are working with the patient’s mouth or nose they can’t be wearing a mask at all times, so we have to be cautious and wear our own high quality masks,” Bollo said.
Therefore, when Bollo and Cua were provided links where they could register for the vaccine, they jumped on the opportunity. After filling out basic information and checking to see they did not have any of the listed allergies, both were set with appointments at Norwalk hospital.
When Bollo showed up to receive her first coronavirus vaccine dose, she expected a multitude of things: a great deal of paperwork, forms regarding insurance information, and even the 4-inch needle she had heard about on Tik-Tok. She was surprised to find none of that to be true.
“Actually getting the vaccine was no big deal,” Bollo said. “I went to Norwalk hospital, a nice nurse just gave me the shot and it took two seconds. They asked if I wanted a picture and I said yes.”
Though Bollo has yet to receive her second dosage, she reported practically no symptoms from her first dose. Conversely, Cua was bed-ridden after her second shot.
“The day after I got my second dose, I was pretty sick. I had a fever, chills, and dizziness,” Cua said.
Despite the significance of receiving the vaccine, neither Bollo or Cua report any significant changes in their roles as EMTs.
“You have to be as cautious as ever if you’ve gotten the vaccine or not,” Bollo said. “You have to take the same precautions, be very diligent, always wear a mask. There’s no difference in your behavior, you just know that if you do end up getting it, your body will be able to fight it off a little better.”