She’s worked on days with drenching rain that’s soaked her through to her skin, but no matter the elements, Lori Guyette continues to greet each and everyone with a smile — and sometimes, a lollipop.
Guyette, a registered nurse, volunteers for Cheshire Medical Center, assisting the institution, NH Responders and the National Guard with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Keene site on Krif Road.
She is one of close to 60 volunteers working at Krif Road; volunteers (usually between four and eight) work seven- and sometimes 13-hour shifts. Guyette has worked both, usually every Thursday nearly since January. She will also be doing special projects such as administering vaccines at schools and senior housing communities.
When volunteers started at the Krif Road site, they thought 800 vaccines was a big day — until they began administering 1,600. With a significant portion of patients fully vaccinated in the region, numbers have reduced to normal limits again.
Guyette and other registered nurses normally carry between 6 and 12 doses at a time, returning to the on-site trailer to retrieve more as needed.
“You don’t think about it but it’s an incredible amount of walking,” said Guyette. “I’m pretty tired by the time I get home.”
During rainy shifts, volunteers continue to work outdoors, approaching vehicles and administering vaccines to patients as they sit inside the car. The same went for days when it was sleeting, snowing or freezing rain. During a couple shifts she worked in April, she was sunburned. In May, there were several hot days she worked.
But helping people become immune to a deadly virus is as rewarding for her as it is for those being vaccinated.
“In the beginning there were a lot of tears,” said Guyette. “People were so scared and so relieved to get the vaccine. I did feel I was making a huge difference.”
Guyette credits the entire team of volunteers for making the dream work.
During every shift, she works with volunteers called documenters who greet patients, ensure they are in the system and which dose they are getting — first, second, Moderna or Pfizer — which arm they received the shot in, and who administered their first vaccine if they are receiving the second. They also schedule their second-dose appointments (if receiving their first) and go over their health screening questionnaire.
“Having an efficient documenter is a key part to this whole thing,” she said. “Having that team that knows what they are doing makes everything run smoothly.”
Having worked for 41 years as a registered nurse in Keene, Guyette has recognized many of her patients who have visited the Krif Road site.
The same people who were her patients as children have now brought their babies to her to be immunized. She has also recognized retired physicians in her vaccination line.
“I refer to them by name; they like it,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Guyette had managed flu clinics at Cheshire Medical Center.
“I was used to mass vaccination, and to moving quickly,” she said.
In 2020, Guyette worked in the hospital’s COVID screening room and later fielded questions about vaccination, namely whether patients qualified for it.
“It was a natural flow to give the vaccine when I could finally give it,” she said.
During the six months she spent talking to patients who suspected they had contracted COVID or had the virus, she knew how scared — and how sick — some of them were.
She spent time checking in with patients who had contracted the virus.
She remembers a young woman she saw at the clinic who had COVID and was living on her own.
“She was struggling,” said Guyette. “Every day I called her and called in different meds for her. It’s important to me to get the vaccine out because I know how many people want it. I pushed them to book (their appointments).”
Many of the patients she spoke with during that time recognized Guyette’s voice from their phone calls with her when they arrived to receive their vaccine at the Krif Road site.
Many also requested Guyette administer their vaccine and waited in line specifically for her to do so.
She sees it as a good thing because it means people are listening, making their appointment and getting their vaccine.
“People should be waiting for me,” she said. “I shouldn’t be waiting for people to arrive.”