HONOLULU (KHON2) — January 21st will mark one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States.

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The last year has been exhausting for health care workers.

However, a nurse at The Queen’s Medical Center said the vaccine is starting to give those on the frontlines hope that this nightmare will soon be over.

Pat Yamamoto has been a nurse at The Queen’s Medical Center her entire career. In her 40 years of experience, the pandemic has been by far the toughest.

“I think this has to be the most stressful year, working as a nurse at the bedside,” Yamamoto explained.

Pre-pandemic, Yamamoto was part-time and contemplating retirement. Then, the coronavirus hit the islands.

I thought that if I were to stay at home and retire, I would not feel that good about myself because I’m really needed out there. I can do this. I’ve done it all my life.

Pat Yamamoto, Nurse, The Queen’s Medical Center

Yamamoto has not only been on the frontlines of the pandemic since it started, but she is now dedicating even more time to help get the COVID-19 vaccine in the arms of thousands.

“I have committed myself to work to work full time,” Yamamoto said. “I will keep working at the bedside for half the time that I have been doing, and then the other half, I will give myself to the vaccination projects.”

Just like hundreds of thousands of other Americans, Yamamoto has had to make sacrifices because of the coronavirus. As if being a nurse during COVID-19 isn’t enough, she hasn’t seen her father in months.

“My dad is at Palolo Chinese Home and visitations have been really limited,” she said. “He’s hard of hearing, so it’s difficult to visit. The first time I did a drive by visit, he didn’t even recognize me with my mask.”

Yamamoto said she believes the vaccine is the answer to the problem. She got it, and wants to encourage others to get it too.

“We all worry about having side effects, but I think if you see what I see in patients who have been exposed to COVID-19, I would choose to have some side effects,” she said.

While the vaccines continue to be rolled out, Yamamoto wants to remind the public not to let their guards down in regards to COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The answer is here,” she said. “It’s just a little while longer. We have lots of time in the future to celebrate, if we want to. If we can get it right, right now.”