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Baton Rouge nurse on a personal mission to save lives amid the pandemic

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Baton Rouge woman is on a mission to get people vaccinated against COVID-19. For Carla Brown, this mission is personal -- saving lives.

On a sweltering summer day, Carla Brown works out of the back of her car.

“We call it our clinic on wheels,” Brown said.

She’s got every supply you can imagine.

“I’ve got a pulse monitor, I’ve got blood pressure cuffs, whatever I need to get them assessed very quickly,” Brown explained.

She and fellow nurse Missy Hastings work quickly because they’ve got a busy day ahead. Inside a North Baton Rouge home, the first stop of the day, Mr. Oliver Batieste is prepped. He says he’s ready to receive a critical lifeline.

Batieste says, “Just reading the paper every day, and seeing the news and I saw where the numbers had been going up and this is why I wanted to get the vaccine.”

Back in the car, Hastings and Brown hit the road where the work continues. They’re on a crusade and for Brown, it’s personal.

She explains, “Every dose that Missy and I administer, I look at it that we’re saving a life.”

She’s trying to save other families from the heartache she feels daily. A pain that she believes could’ve been prevented.

“I know I caused my husband’s death and he would still be here if I wouldn’t have brought this virus home,” Brown said.

In March of last year, while working as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, Brown tested positive for COVID-19.

She remembers, “All of a sudden while cooking the food I got hit with like a bad headache.”

Her 90-year-old father, brother, and her husband, David, quickly fell ill.

“David was in the hospital, went out on May 17th and that’s the last time he left the house,” Brown explained.

David was alone for two months in the hospital with no visitors allowed with strict COVID protocols in place.

“I don’t know how my husband felt with me not being there, but that was the hard part,” Brown said.

After seven weeks on a ventilator, David died. He was a two-time cancer survivor and survived being shot in the face years before. But Covid took his life.

Brown tearfully says, “The man I love the most guys, he’s in the grave. Now we got to go through holidays and my David is not here. We just did my son’s wedding and had a sign, ‘If heaven weren’t so far away, you’d be here’, that’s a hurt you cannot take away.”

His death rocked Brown to her core. She left her job at the psychiatric hospital to become a hospice nurse.

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“I want to make sure family is there when their loved one has their last breath. I want to be part of that process of celebrating life and death, something that was taken away from me,” Brown explained.

She wanted a way to avenge David’s death and vowed to make a difference in her community one shot at a time. On weekdays after working her day job and on the weekends, she targets neighborhoods with low vaccination rates, trying to encourage people to get vaccinated. Once they agree, she picks up leftover vaccines from a nearby pharmacy. Paul Bordelon calls it a seamless partnership; he vaccinates people at his store during the day while Brown reaches those who can’t get to the pharmacy.

“It’s unbelievable what she’s doing on her own time and what’s good about it, between me and her, we have very little waste,” Bordelon said.

Together they’ve vaccinated over 2,000 people. Back out in the neighborhood, Brown prepares to give a shot to 18-year-old Kamauri. His grandmother arranged for this house call.

Patsy Taylor explains, “I told him he had to get out of here if he didn’t take it so I called you all and he went through with it.”

She knows the Delta variant isn’t something she wants to affect her family. “This is very serious and it’s getting worse. I had her to go to my mother’s house, she’s 94, my brother, I think he’s 52 and I called them to go to their house to give them the shot,” Taylor said.

With Louisiana having one of the lowest vaccination rates in the entire country, these ‘Covid Crusaders’ as they’ve dubbed themselves, say they won’t stop their efforts anytime soon. “We’re here to save lives right now,” Brown said. And they mean it because as Brown pleads with people, just look at what happened to her, and the love of her life.

Brown tearfully says, “Do you not understand if there were a vaccine when my David was alive, he would be here.”

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