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Mother-daughter duo help vaccinate thousands after COVID-19 heartbreak

Posted at 10:52 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 10:43:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — People filtered into the Mountain America Expo Center Thursday, making their way through the multi-step vaccine process. After checking in, they walked up to one of several tables, each with nurses ready to administer doses.

Some of those people walked up to table "D," where Katie Ward sat.

"Hi there. Welcome!" she said, greeting a man who stepped up to an empty chair next to her.

"I'm going to be your nurse for a couple minutes," she said, as the man sat down. After a round of questions, Ward readied the needle.

The nurse practitioner does her best to make the poke as painless as possible.

"Most people say, it didn't even hurt," she said, swapping a needle for a Band-Aid on the man's arm.

"Nope. That felt good," he replied.

Each person then walks into the 15-minute waiting area, where volunteers like Jackie Morgan walk up to make sure people are doing okay.

She also helps them register for their second dose.

A woman looked down at her phone, commenting that her smart phone is smarter than she is.

"I know!" Morgan replied, jokingly. "That's why we're here to help."

Ward and Morgan are quite the dynamic duo-- a mother/daughter team who volunteers together twice a week at various clinics around Salt Lake County.

"It's really fun," Morgan said, with a laugh. "It is," Ward echoed. "We get to hang out at the vaccination sites," Morgan said.

Sometimes people find out that a mom and daughter pair are helping them, as they make their way through the vaccination process.

"I think they think we're pretty cute," Morgan said. She and Ward began to chuckle.

They two can't imagine not donating their time to the cause of helping curb COVID-19 in the community.

"Honestly, the minute I signed up I called Jackie and said, 'Look, I'm going to be a vaccinator!'" Ward recounted. "And she was like, 'Where do I sign up?'"

In those few short minutes that they interact with people, most never learn why Ward and Morgan volunteer or their motivation to make sure people get vaccinated.

"My father passed away, caught COVID in that kind of that July Fourth wave," Ward explained. "[He] got a positive test July eighth, and was gone three weeks later."

Morgan said she couldn't see her grandpa in the months leading up to his death, because of COVID-19 restrictions at the facility he lived in.

"I think that's really hard to know that he was alone, and he was scared," she said.

Their grandfather and father, John Bolling Degges, was 84 years old when he passed.

"I know he would have gotten his vaccine if he'd had the chance," Ward said.

Degges didn't have the chance that others have now.

Ward and Morgan talked about how therapeutic it is for them to help.

"People are so relieved and so grateful, and it's just so rewarding to get to be a part of that," Ward said, with tears in her eyes.

As Ward sat at her table, a teen walked up with her mom.

The teen girl became nervous, and asked her mom to walk over as Ward got ready to give the teen her shot.
Ward immediately jumped into nurse mode, guiding the teen to take deep, slow breaths in the nose and out through her mouth.

A second later, Ward was done.

"And you're done," the mom said. "Oh. Wow!" the daughter replied, laughing.

The girl and her mom walked away in good spirits, clearly calmed by Ward. She walked into the next room, where Morgan checked on them.

"How are you feeling?" Morgan asked. "I'm feeling good," the teen replied.

For a mother and daughter who experienced a tough loss during COVID-19, they explained that they're happy to now be a part of the solution and make a difference.

"It's hard not to cry every single time," Ward said. "It makes me proud."