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'It was a giddy experience': Colorado doctor shares COVID-19 vaccination experience

Dr. Gabriel Lockhart was one of the first local doctors to go to New York to treat COVID-19 patients in March. Now, he's among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

DENVER — Back in March, Dr. Gabriel Lockhart was one of the first local doctors to go to New York to treat COVID patients. Now, nine months later, Lockhart is among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Denver. 

"It was a giddy experience for sure," Lockhart said, three days after getting part one of the two-part COVID vaccine. "There's a picture of me online where I'm smiling like crazy." 

Even a few days after getting vaccinated, the National Jewish Health doctor is still beaming. 

Back in March, when New York hospitals needed help in ICUs, Lockhart and a few of his colleagues at National Jewish Health volunteered to work at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  

"New York is doing okay right now, but if the time came and they needed more help, I would absolutely volunteer to go back," said Lockhart Sunday, nearly nine full months since that trip.

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Every week since then, Dr. Lockhart has continued to serve patients in Denver as the ICU Director at St. Joseph's Hospital. 

"Our normal ICU capacity is 30 ICU beds," Lockheart said "We've been well above that for a couple months," he said. "It's exhausting. I look at the faces of our nurses and physicians in the ICU and I just don't want my team to feel under appreciated. They’re even busier now than we were in the spring. But they still are so resilient and still doing an amazing job with better outcomes than most in our ICU."

All these months, Lockhart and his team have been waiting for the vaccine. 

"We like to walk the walk and talk the talk," Lockhart said. "And if I'm going to promote this vaccine for other people, I have to make sure that I feel comfortable taking it myself. I absolutely felt comfortable doing that."

Last week, Lockhart was finally able to walk the walk all the way into the hospital to be vaccinated.  

"The only side effect I had about 12 hours after was a little bit of soreness in the arm just like getting a flu shot," Lockheart said. "That went away within a day. I've had no other issues since then."

A well-deserved victory for a man who has been face to face with the deadly virus since the pandemic began. A chance to also encourage others, he said, to get the vaccine when it's their turn.

"It's been so hard to have a smile from a genuine place," Lockhart said. "To be able to do it from a genuine place and show it to the world, that was an amazing experience." 

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