LONDON - It slowly dawned on May Parsons that she faced a gargantuan task because the whole world will be watching her do what she has been doing best in the last three years as a peer vaccinator.
It was the moment when the UK took a huge step towards a return to normality. At 6:31 a.m., on a cold December morning, a 90-year-old Coventry grandmother became the first person in the world to have the Pfizer/BioNtech coronavirus vaccine and the inoculation was administered by the British-Filipina matron of Respiratory Wards at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
“It has given me lots of pride to be able to showcase what Filipinos can achieve, and in terms of the care of the Filipinos-- what we give to the patients and our community. It has given me the opportunity to show how proud I am of the values that we have as Filipinos and the quality of the care that we give. And for me to be chosen, it also showcases the value of hard work," Parsons told ABS-CBN News Europe.
She added: “I have been doing this for a long time. Never once in my life did I think that this was going to be the pinnacle of my career to be showcased as the first Filipino-British nurse to administer the vaccine in the pandemic. It just goes to show that hard work really pays off.”
She is part of the Peer Vaccination Programme in her Trust, which advocates the flu jab for everyone during winter season, particularly for NHS staff or peers. For three years running, Parsons had the most vaccine that has been given by a vaccinator. This year she performed 140 jabs in one day gaining her the moniker “prolific jabber.”
Although her team was being prepared for months for the vaccine roll-out, it was only four days before the actual vaccination that she was told that she was the one doing the historic first jab.
Parsons believes she was put there because of the impact of Filipino nurses to the NHS, which to this day account for over 18,000 stronghold workers and the second biggest foreign workers in the National Health Service.
“There are a lot of Filipinos that are holding up the NHS. I think the impact that we have is substantive,” said the mother-of-two who has been a nurse for 24 years and working for 17 years in the same NHS Trust.
She added: “When I was asked if I was happy to do it. It just told me that they valued my contribution. They valued the hard work that I put in. They valued the integrity in the work that I give to my patients and staff.”
FINDING HER CALLING
Parsons grew up in Pasay City and studied at the Baclaran Elementary School Central and went to Arellano University in high school. She wanted to be a cardiac surgeon when her mother developed high blood pressure. But when she was admitted at the University of Sto. Tomas to study nursing, she found her calling.
She graduated in year 2000 and worked at the UST Hospital until she found an opportunity in the UK in 2003.
“I fell in love with the nursing (profession). I thought if I’m going to be a surgeon it’s going to be the best way to interact with your patient and how you can be best for them. Actually, I love this now. I don’t want to be a surgeon anymore.”
An OFW child, whose mother worked in the Middle East for over 20 years, Parsons is a hands-on mother by choice, juggling work and family life while also pursuing a master’s degree in Global Healthcare Leadership at Coventry University.
“Not being with my mom when I was growing up, I thought I want to raise my kids with me, even when I don’t go to sleep. I passed so many opportunities for me to progress because my kids were my priority,” she explained.
Now that COVID cases continue to rise in the UK despite the roll-out of vaccine, she has this to say: “Please don’t be complacent. Don’t think that because there’s vaccine now, you can do whatever you want. Please follow the rules. The government is advising us to stay at home for a reason: that is to avoid cross-contamination.”
She added: "The frontline where I am, the amount of death is devastating. It’s so soul-breaking and heart-breaking. You will not even imagine how it feels until you are there. So follow the rules.”
While the world is fighting the pandemic, she also wants to leave an inspiring message to those wanting a career in the medical field.
“Pursue your career, pursue dreams, work hard. It does pay off in the end,” she said.