First responder urges Alabamians to the COVID vaccine after losing his mother to the virus

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A local first responder is hoping his story will encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

He risked his own life trying to save his mother who recently died from COVID.

Dennis Stefaniak has been in law enforcement for the state of Alabama for 20 years. He said as a first responder, he rolled up his sleeve to get the COVID vaccine as soon as it was available to him.

He couldn’t convince his mother to get vaccinated and unfortunately, she died from the virus.

Stefaniak’s mother, Rita Norris, was diagnosed with COVID on August 20th.

He said at the time, she wasn’t showing any symptoms other than feeling tired.

But just six days later she felt the need to go to the hospital.

She called Stefaniak’s brother to help her but collapsed at the front door of her house.

His brother called him to help.

They performed CPR on their mother until the paramedics arrived, with Stefaniak giving her rescue breaths, but it was too late.

It’s been a week since his mother’s passing, and Stefaniak said he still has not tested positive for the virus, nor has he had any symptoms.

He said that’s because of the protection he got from the vaccine.

“That touched my heart to want to get to…you know…as many people as I can to say, ‘Hey, you know, the vaccine works.’ You know, it’s not a government conspiracy, you know. They’re trying to stop, you know, the virus. People need to realize that it’s not some kind of conspiracy behind our government. You know, they’re actually trying to save people’s lives,” Stefaniak explained.

Rita Norris was 69 years old.

Stefaniak said she was a healthy woman with no underlying health conditions.

He said he hopes his family’s tragedy will encourage others to educate themselves on the vaccine and get the shot.

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