TORONTO — The pandemic has been full of tragic tales, but it has also inspired some to step up in service of their fellow human beings — such as Junghee Ahn, an Ontario nurse who recently came out of retirement to help administer COVID-19 vaccines.
“I wanted to help out the community and the people I live with here,” Ahn told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “That is my intention.”
She was a nurse for 25 years before she retired. But as COVID-19 swept across Canada, she became “anxious” to help out in some way.
“I worked so long in the medical field, and you can feel it, you can understand what they’re going through, my colleagues, my friends, and even the people,” Ahn said.
“I’m retired, so I cannot do much about it.”
Then, on Christmas Eve, the answer came in a call from a friend.
“She told me there is a vaccine clinic going on — are you interested?” Ahn said. “She kind of knew that I’m trying to help [in] whatever way I can.”
Now, Ahn is part of a team of nurses delivering vaccines in Kitchener, Ont, at the Grand River Hospital.
She said she is “so happy” to help with the vaccine rollout, and that the reaction from those who receive the vaccine is gratifying.
“People are generally very happy to get the vaccine,” she said. “You feel safe when you get the vaccine. You feel better — emotionally, also physically, you feel better. You feel like you’re protected now.”
Retired General Rick Hillier, who is heading up Ontario’s program for vaccine distribution, tweeted about Ahn on Monday, calling her a health-care hero.
“Junghee, retired GRH nurse of 25 yrs, came out of retirement to assist w/#vaccine efforts b/c when the pandemic hit, her immediate reaction was to help in any way she could,” the tweet read.
“Everyday she dons her PPE, embraces learning & continues to be a valued, hard working & humble member of the #vaccine team.”
Ahn is far from the first retired nurse to step up and answer the call during the pandemic. In the first wave, retired health-care workers and nurses came back to work in droves. Around 10,000 health-care workers came out of retirement in Quebec alone in March.
And in Nova Scotia, a recent call for help administering vaccines led to 210 retired nurses signing up in just two weeks.
So when will Ahn be able to go back into retirement? She’s not sure.
“We have to see how it goes,” she said of the vaccine rollout. While she can’t predict the length of the rollout, she expressed confidence in health officials to guide volunteers and nurses like Ahn in helping as best as they can.
“The scientists know better what we have to do.”