Ronald William jokes all the time that he’s a “real old man." At 65, he works in home health care, and these days, he has simple dreams that a COVID vaccine he almost skipped might bring new life.
Fellow home health care worker Natalie Johns said she shares those dreams amid a pandemic that has changed much about daily life.
"I missed my last year's birthday,” Johnson said. “I spent it in the house by myself, cooked my own dinner. This year I want to be out somewhere, and I want somebody to cook for me.”
It's not just "anti-vaxers" saying they won't get the COVID-19 shot. There are cynics in health care avoiding the vaccine, too, including thousands in Ohio who refused to take it in January.
Johnson said she was scared because of potential side effects and a racial disparity in health care.
"One time I was in the hospital and couldn't even hardly stand, and every time I stood I passed out and I still got sent home," she recalled.
William said he knows firsthand about the racial disparities in medical treatment, which is why he almost skipped the COVID vaccine.
“I'm a veteran. I was a medical specialist in the Army. There's a particular hospital that I go to… I went in with an elevated temperature. The nurse ... tried to minimize, ‘Oh, that's not an elevated temp.’ I said, "Wait a minute, ma'am,'” he recalled.
Johnson also personally understands the human toll the virus has taken.
"People are dying -- I know probably 10 people who have passed,” she said.
That’s ultimately why Johnson changed her mind and became determined to get the shot.
"I'm not going to let oppression stop me from taking care of my health. I'm just not going to do it,” she said.
William, too, decided to get the vaccination.
"Initially I was hesitant. But I stayed, I did my research, consulted with people, got facts that I had to proceed and come in,” William said.
For Johnson, actually getting the vaccine was the other half of the battle. She was first in line and waited two hours the first time she tried to get an initial dose.
"They were all white. I kept trying to be patient, but I felt some kind of way. I told the lady I was first in line. It's an hour later. Why am I still here? And she kept saying they couldn't find my paperwork, they couldn't find my paperwork."
Johnson was turned away.
"I was hurt. I left there with tears in my eyes, like they don't want to vaccinate me and all of this is going on,” she said. "But I'm not going to let fear stop me. I'm going to fight through whatever I have to fight through to get to the other side."
Later, doors and room for both Johnson and William to get shots opened in Springdale, and right after getting second doses this once skeptical pair left empowered and felt protected.