headshot of Adeola James
Abike James, MD, MPH, and her mother, Adeola James pictured here, both received the COVID-19 vaccine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, a few weeks apart.

By Abike James, MD, MPH

I’m a physician, a mom, wife, and middle daughter of five children of Nigerian and Guyanese descent. The morning after my first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, I had an intense argument with my siblings who are scattered across the globe. My elation about receiving the vaccine was met with reprimand from two of my siblings, telling me to just make sure I did not influence our mother to get it or let her be used as a guinea pig. I was devastated. My mother is the highest risk amongst us. The isolation during the first part of the pandemic, when she couldn't see her children or grandchildren, was too much, and I made the decision to bring her back into my bubble. But every day since then, I’ve walked around with the fear that as a health care provider, I could bring COVID to her and the rest of my family.

Abike James receiving vaccineJames shared her story through a spoken essay with the Penn Listening Lab. Encompassing the voices of patients, caregivers, staff, and health care providers, the Listening Lab is a storytelling initiative that embraces the power of listening as a form of care.

Read the rest and listen to James’ story in her own voice, and others, at pennlisteninglab.org.

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