Civil rights icon on vaccine frustrations: ‘God sent me an angel named Ashley’

COVID-19 Vaccine

CHESAPEAKE, Va (WAVY) — Dr. Patricia “Pat” Turner registered with the City of Norfolk, the state of Virginia and she contacted three churches.

All of it was in an effort to get a potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine — and it failed.

In frustration, she reached out to former Norfolk City Councilman Randy Wright, who then reached out to 10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley.

(Photo courtesy: Dr. Patricia Turner)

In a Zoom interview this week, Turner, who is 76 years old and suffers from high blood pressure, shared her frustrations in efforts to schedule a vaccine.

“No one is calling me, no one has contacted me at all I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said.

“What is wrong with me?” is the same question 13-year-old Turner asked when she was punched, pushed, and spat on when she helped integrate Norfolk Junior High School in 1959 as part of the trailblazing Norfolk 17.

What’s wrong today are the vaccine registration systems that are difficult to navigate even if, like Turner, you are familiar with various software systems. 10 On Your Side has exposed problems users have experienced with various vaccine registration programs.

10 On Your Side viewer Ashley Welton Gnilka heard Turner’s cries for help, logged on to CVS.com late Thursday night, and snagged a coveted appointment for 10:15 Friday morning.

(Photo courtesy: Ashley Welton Gnilka

“It’s very hard. I’ve gotten appointments for elderly folks in my family. I just wanted to help her navigate the process and I helped to secure an appointment Thursday night,” said Welton Gnilka.

Like family, Gnilka showed up for the appointment.

“And I met her just to make sure it went through,” she said.

At the check-in desk, Welton Gnilka explained that she made the appointment on behalf of Turner. The rest was history in the making.

After queueing up in a short line, Turner was placed in the capable hands of pharmacist Kevin Gordon. While in the hot seat, Turner asked whether he had ever heard of the Norfolk 17. Gordon, a New Yorker, replied “no.”

Turner then introduced herself as one of the 17 teenagers who risked their lives in 1959 when a court order cleared the way for them to integrate Norfolk Public Schools.

Turner quipped, “They say I’m a celebrity.”

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

Gordon administered the first of two Moderna vaccine doses without a hitch and instructed Turner to wait inside the store for at least 15 minutes in the event she experienced an adverse reaction.

The veteran educator used those minutes to give Welton Gnilka, two patients who are Norfolk natives, and Gordon a firsthand account of her trailblazing but dangerous journey as a member of the Norfolk 17.

(Photo: Regina Mobley/WAVY)

When the 15 minutes were up, Turner and her new friend strolled toward the checkout counter. Turner stopped and picked up a small Whitman’s Sampler to celebrate a sweet ending.

“How can you just wake up in the morning and help people you don’t even know? I believe God sent me an angel named Ashley. Let me tell you something; I would not be here if it were not for 10 On Your Side.

Turner’s vaccination angel also scheduled the second Moderna dose for April 2.

A 10 On Your Side Success
(WAVY photo: Larry Carney)

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