Walking 6 miles through nearly a foot of snow to get to her first COVID-19 vaccine appointment was nothing, compared to what 90-year-old Fran Goldman went through to get it.
“I have been calling to get an appointment anywhere, every morning, every afternoon and often I’ve been online at night,” Goldman said Sunday evening, safely back home in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood.
Goldman would get on the phone every morning with the Washington state Department of Health and ask them to help her find something.
“Nada. Nothing,” Goldman said. “Every day.”
She tried the local grocery stores with in-store pharmacies, hoping for a spot. Her daughter Ruth, who lives in Buffalo, New York, would work the phones and scour the internet to find something. So did a friend in Arizona.
Last Friday, Goldman got online with Seattle Children’s hospital, which was administering vaccines. She went through all the questions expecting a dead end. Then a window opened, asking what time she wanted to come in.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Goldman said. “I had to get my glasses to see if I was really seeing it.”
She made an appointment for Sunday morning at 9:10, not knowing that there was a snowstorm headed this way.
On Saturday, Goldman awoke to several inches of snow on the ground, and knew she would have to plan ahead. So she dressed in layers, got out her walking sticks, and headed out with her phone, which told her it would be 3 miles each way.
Goldman, who got a new hip last year, stepped carefully down the steep driveway outside her condo building, and got onto the Burke-Gilman Trail, which already had tracks in it.
She got about two-thirds of the way to the hospital and turned around, confident she would be able to make it the next day.
And on Sunday morning at 8, she dressed in fleece pants and a short-sleeved shirt so that the nurse could get to her arm easily. Over that, a fleece zip-up, then a down coat, then a rain jacket. She yanked on her snow boots, grabbed her two walking sticks, and headed out.
“It was not easy going, it was challenging,” she said, adding that the tracks had frozen over and been covered with more snow.
But Goldman made it to her appointment just 5 minutes late, which was fine. Had she been early, she would have had to wait in her car — which wasn’t there.
Back in Buffalo, Ruth Goldman wasn’t terribly worried about her mother.
“We’re outside people,” she said. “We love being outside. I was out yesterday at Lake Ontario with a wind chill of 6 degrees.
“My mother isn’t going to let a little snow stop her from getting the vaccine,” she continued. “She was willing to walk however many miles there and back to get it. She is a really remarkable person who has the attitude of ‘You don’t let a little adversity get in your way.’
“She’s someone who looks for solutions, not problems.”
Indeed, Fran Goldman is one step closer to solving one major problem: not being able to hold her great-grandson, Silas, born six months ago; and her other great- grandson, Logan, who is 2. She also has five grandchildren and four children.
“I can’t wait to be able to hold them,” she said. “I just want to feel more comfortable.”
She hasn’t felt that way since the pandemic began. She does her best, taking Zoom classes (right now it’s a Lifelong Learning class about post-World War II China), ordering food online and picking it up in her car. (Yes, she still drives).
“I hate it,” she said. “I will be happy to get back out into a grocery store and pick out my own things.”
That was never more true than today, when she came in from the cold. She started some laundry and heated up a can of soup, which was “awful.”
But it still marked the end of a long period of frustration, and one very long walk.
“I knew how far it was, I knew how long it would take me,” Goldman said. “Had it been shorter, I would have been happier. But I made it.”