COVID-19 survivor reflects on road to recovery as she receives vaccine at Martinsville Speedway


MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Gloria Emler was one of more than 2,000 people who got a COVID-19 vaccine at the Martinsville Speedway Friday.

She’s a pharmacy technician, a newlywed, and a COVID-19 survivor.

“The nurse, Hope, she’s here somewhere….she was taking me out,” Emler said. “And she hollered to everybody and said, ‘It’s Gloria. She’s made it. She’s our first patient to come off the respirator from COVID.'”

Emler was hospitalized due to COVID-19. Once she was released from the hospital, she was sent to rehab in Durham, North Carolina.

“The odds were totally against her,” said Hope Barker, a RN at the vaccination event. “But prayer, lots of prayer, and determination made the difference.”

Just a few months later, Emler was able to walk down the aisle on her wedding day.

“I had my daughter on one side and my stepdaughter on the other,” Emler recalled.

Wedding guests were able to see her take her first steps, and Emler was all smiles again.

“I think I surprised a lot of people,” she laughed.

Until the vaccine becomes more widely available, so-called “vaccine hunters” are showing up at distribution sites across the county to see if they can get their hands on any leftover doses of the vaccine at the end of vaccinations events.

By and large, that hasn’t been the case in our region and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) officials are advising against showing up at a vaccine clinic, uninvited. You need an appointment, like Emler had, in order to receive the vaccine. What happens to any leftover doses varies by health district.

Dr. Noelle Bissell with the New River Valley Health District told WFXR News there are usually less than five leftover doses at events. Those doses are distributed through a combination of vaccinating homebound residents or calling people on a prioritized standby list.

Officials with the West Piedmont Health District told WFXR News that any extra doses will go to those in Phase 1b on a list to be vaccinated or to volunteers.

“This pod today is the first time we’ve opened up to people with health conditions that will make them more at risk to severe COVID infections,” said Nancy Bell, the Population Health Manager and Public Relations Officer for the West Piedmont Health District.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District says leftover doses are usually in the single-digits after vaccination events.

“We have Phase 1B folks who are willing to be on a waitlist who we would then call as the clinic is winding down and say ‘Do you want to come in and get vaccinated?’ Because we have a lot of volunteers working with us, if we have an unvaccinated volunteer who is Phase 1B by definition because they are working a pod, so they become a healthcare worker, we always ensure our volunteers have that opportunity if they want to.”

For Emler, getting the COVID-19 vaccine was one more step on her road to recovery. Though she is doing better, she needs a walker to get around. But she has the support of her new husband, friends, family, and fellow healthcare workers who are by her side.

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