Mother honors son's only birthday wish and gets COVID-19 vaccine
HOUSTON - Sheletta Brundidge, a native of Houston's Fifth Ward, watched the story about Lydia Rodriguez all the way from her current home in Minnesota.
"I thought that could have been me. That could have absolutely been me -- married, mother of four. Not just hesitant, not just reluctant but adamant about not getting the vaccine," she told FOX 26.
For Sheletta, a media personality and community activist, her refusal was rooted in mistrust of the medical community based on history and her personal experience.
"I understand racial disparities in the healthcare community -- how I have been treated as a woman of color giving birth to my children," she said. "How I have [been in] emergency rooms and my symptoms have been ignored."
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She says her husband tried to convince her of the vaccine and her sister, who is a nurse, also tried. But, she was upset that many other health issues in communities of color had been neglected for generations.
"And so now the medical community wants to come to our churches and our community centers and tell us that we matter and that they care and we need to take this vaccine? I was very resentful of that," Sheletta emphasized.
Her oldest son, Andrew, says his mom’s decision not to get vaccinated was making him anxious.
"I kept thinking if my mom gets sick if something happens to her, who’s going to take care of us?" Andrew said referring to him and his three younger siblings.
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On July 31, Andrew turned 15-years-old. He turned down the $200 his mom wanted to give him and made a special birthday wish instead.
"I got my facts ready. I did my research. When I woke up for my birthday I went downstairs, I told my mom I wanted her to get the vaccine," Andrew recalled.
Sheletta told him it was not his decision.
"And he pushed back which he doesn't do," she added. "And he had facts and figures."
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However, it was not facts that convinced her. It was a question he asked her.
"His three youngest siblings all have autism. And so he said, ‘Mom, who’s going to take care of them if you get sick and die?’"
She was overcome by fear.
"It wasn't a fact. It wasn't a figure. It was the fear; the fear of leaving my children here without me was greater than the fear of getting that shot," Sheletta shared. "So, I got the damn shot."
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On August 13, Sheletta went to a pharmacy at her local grocery store. Minnesota's governor was there but, most importantly, so was her family.
"My son promised me that he would hold my hand," she said. Andrew kept his promise.
Sheletta feels like now she's a mom on a mission to encourage others who are fearful, especially mothers in communities of color, to get the vaccine.
"I wasn't just taking it for me. I was talking it for women who look like me, women who needed to see that needle go into my arm and know that everything is going to be okay," she concluded.
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For Andrew, it was also an important lesson about love and courage.
"She said this before and I'll say it for her, some things we're just going to have to do afraid," he said.
Andrew is scheduled to get his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine next week. Sheletta says she will get hers on September 3. She also says she plans to donate her next paycheck to the Rodriguez children.