It’s the idea of hope that made me jump at the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine right away. The past year has been rough for all of us. The world has put so much effort, money and mind power into this vaccine that it gives me hope that we can achieve some level of normalcy again.

I know it may never go back to being exactly the same, but one day I hope to be able to see a friend, a family member or someone smile at work. Maybe even give a hug again or a handshake. I think the idea of being able to return to some level of normalcy was more than enough to get me to sign up for the vaccine.

I would say that my coworkers and I were lucky to have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Hearing from my colleagues who are dealing with the real brunt of COVID-19, experiencing exhaustion and seeing the fear patients and families face was another factor that encouraged me to do anything I could to see if I could help end this pandemic.

When I received my first dose, I was nervous and in disbelief.

When I received my second dose, I felt happy. I was happy that we were taking a step in the right direction. I was happy that there was hope that things will get better.

I wish people understood the extent of how sick COVID-19 can make you. If you don’t work in health care, it’s easy to be at home, watching television, seeing the numbers and think, ‘Where are these numbers coming from? I don’t know anyone that’s sick.’ The reality is that some people with COVID-19 are extremely sick and the road to recovery for these patients will be long. I think if people understood the severity, they would be a bit more understanding.

We all go through life at a pretty fast pace, but this virus has forced us to slow down by taking everything we thought to be normal in life and turning it completely upside down. This past year I’ve been thinking about how we can’t take life granted anymore. There’s hope that we can enjoy ourselves again one day. We can enjoy a nice meal on a patio or even go see a good movie at the theatre. I’m looking forward to things as simple as that, things that I took for granted before.

Joel Persaud is a Registered Nurse in the TNICU at St. Michael’s. He got his COVID-19 vaccine. Get yours.

As told to Jessica Cabral. This interview has been edited and condensed.