Health officials at Athens Limestone Hospital treat patients who wished they had the COVID vaccine


ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) – “Completely preventable,” that’s what local health care workers are calling deaths from COVID-19 at this point.

A more contagious variant, plus low vaccinations, equals a rise in cases. It’s a simple, but frustrating issue.

For a few months, things quieted down at Athens Limestone Hospital, giving health care workers enough time to catch their breath. But that’s all changing. Wednesday, multiple people came to the hospital suffering from COVID-19.

“I’ve seen more deaths this year than I’ve ever seen in my nursing career. And it don’t get easy. It get’s a little harder every time,” RN Jennifer Risner said.

RN Jennifer Risner treated the first COVID patient to come through the doors at Athens Limestone Hospital in 2020. She says it’s been grueling, and we’re heading down a dangerous path once again.

“We’re seeing a lot of sick people come in and that’s very, very scary for our future,” Risner said.

Her feeling of helplessness is now turning to frustration.

“Have you treated a patient recently who was unvaccinated and wished they had gotten the shot?” I asked.

“Yes more than one,” Risner responded.

And once you’re sick with COVID, a vaccine can’t undo it. Risner says you can get the vaccine once you’re healthy again.

“Maybe in a few months after you recover. If you recover.”

Risner understands it’s a personal choice, but would hate to see a loved one check-in for simply not wanting to get vaccinated.

“I feel like if you put yourself in my shoes, and see what I’ve saw behind the scenes, that I do think that you’d change your mind about being vaccinated,” Risner said.

Dr. Matthew Hanserd, Chief of Staff, with Athens Limestone Hospital is also frustrated.

“The same people that don’t trust medical science, that won’t get the vaccine, that don’t follow recommendations,100 percent of those patients when they get sick come to the hospital and ask for my care,” Dr. Hanserd said.

In this career, she has had to answer incredibly tough questions.

“I had a husband and wife. The wife died. The husband asked me what could I have done for her not to have died. And I told him she could’ve been vaccinated. It’s rare in my line of work that I can give things that are rock solid, but in her case, she’d still be with us,” he said.

Dr. Hanserd urges anyone who has questions about the vaccine to talk to their health care provider.

Doctor, nurse at Athens Limestone Hospital say patients are saying they want the vaccine after its too late

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