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Doctor shares her story of COVID-19 loss to inspire Coloradans to get the vaccine

Dr. Michelle Barron is an infectious disease expert with UCHealth. She hopes her family’s story will convince people to protect themselves with the COVID-19 vaccine.

COLORADO, USA — For the past year, Dr. Michelle Barron has shared her expertise in the field of infectious disease.

The Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at UCHealth is a frequent voice in 9NEWS stories, sharing updates on the pandemic and vaccine efforts.

Now, she’s sharing a more personal story that she hopes will inspire Coloradans, still hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, to get a shot.

“I’m worried people are getting complacent and we're not at herd immunity,” she said Friday afternoon.

Vaccines are now open to the general public in Colorado, and anyone ages 16 and older is eligible. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports more than 1.8 million people are fully vaccinated, representing about one-third of the state’s population. More than 2.5 million people have at least one dose.

“We need 70-80% of the population [vaccinated], not just in the U.S, but in the world, to say this [pandemic] is over. Otherwise, we’re going to continue with these ups and downs. COVID still kills people, COVID still causes people to get sick. And we know the vaccine will keep you out of the hospital, lessen severity of illness, keep you from dying.”

Barron is now sharing her own family’s story of loss.

“[About] 580,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID, and in that number are two of my family members,” she said.

Last year, Barron’s beloved aunt and uncle, Ricardo and Marisela Tellez, died just a month apart after battling COVID-19.

Credit: Dr. Michelle Barron
Dr Michelle Barron, at her wedding with her aunt and uncle, Ricardo and Marisela Tellez

“They were married, 38 years. Lived next door to me," she said. "I grew up next to them. They were an essential part of my life." 

Five other members of her family were also diagnosed with the virus but survived. At the same time her family struggled with the virus in her home state of Texas, Dr. Barron was treating patients in a hospital in Colorado. Her professional life of dealing with the pandemic turned personal.

“I’d be rounding in the hospital and think, yeah, this is what’s happening right now to my loved ones.”

She’s now sharing her family’s story with a purpose.

“I’m telling it because I want people to know this disease is real," she said. "It can affect anyone, at any time, at any stage. We didn’t have a vaccine then. We have a vaccine now, and I firmly believe if we’d had a vaccine, they’d be here today.”

Barron remembers her aunt, Marisela, as the life of the party – and always eager to host friends and family for celebrations big and small. She remembers her uncle, a Navy veteran and former police officer. She describes her aunt and uncle as kind and generous, teaching her how to drive as a teenager and moving her cross-country when school and work took her to new cities.

She spoke at length about her aunt and uncle's lives and their impact on hers in an article published on UCHealth’s website, again, encouraging people to get a vaccine.

“This is why I’m telling this story,” Dr. Barron said. “If it gets one person to get the vaccine, then they would not have lost their lives in vain.”

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