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Alexandria COVID patient calls getting the vaccine 'a no-brainer'

Sandy Buckner says after effects of COVID-19 vaccine pale in comparison to having and dealing with COVID-19.

Sandy Buckner (right) of Alexandria smiles for a photo with her occupational therapist, Mallory Thang, while baking a cake. Her therapy included trying to stand for longer periods of time, which is why she was baking the cake. (Contributed)

A worldwide prayer chain plus knowledgeable doctors and a caring nursing staff are just a few of things Sandy Buckner is thankful for and gives credit to for her being alive today.

And, she is now a huge supporter of the COVID-19 vaccine as the after effects of the vaccine pale in comparison, she said, to what she went through and is still going through after a nearly four-month long bout with COVID-19.

Buckner, 73, of Alexandria and her husband, Bill Buckner, called Sandy a “walking miracle” as several times throughout her ordeal Bill said he thought he’d be planning a funeral.

Her story begins last year in November. After not feeling really well, not sleeping good and losing her appetite, Sandy decided it was time to finally go in to see her doctor. That was Nov. 17, which was a Tuesday. The following Saturday, she learned she tested positive for COVID-19.

Throughout the next few weeks, she laid low and didn’t do much of anything except wait for things to get better.


They didn’t. By the second week of December, things had become worse and Sandy said she was really having a hard time breathing.

"You don’t want to see a loved one hooked up to the machines like Sandy was. It was a scary time. I don’t wish it on anyone. Get the shot."

— Bill Buckner

She had Bill bring her into the emergency room at Alomere after a major coughing attack left her struggling for breath

“I thought I was going to die,” Sandy said.

She was told she had COVID pneumonia and was whisked away to the St. Cloud Hospital where she was put in a room in the respiratory intensive care unit.

She spend 11 days in the St. Cloud Hospital, but was able to be home for Christmas.

However, things still weren’t getting better. On Dec. 30, after another huge coughing jag, Sandy told Bill to call an ambulance.


“I was concerned and knew it was serious,” said Bill. After her first stint in the hospital, Sandy had been sent home with an oxygen machine. Because her levels were measuring so low, Bill said he knew it was critical. “It took the ambulance less than 10 minutes to get to our house. Once they got there, they took charge and they took good care of her.”

Bill said when she was being loaded up into the ambulance, he wasn’t sure he was going to see her again.

“It was scary,” he said.

Sandy was admitted to Alomere Health and spent from Dec. 30 through Jan. 9 in the ICU. She had two hospitalists taking care of her, who she said really fought for her. She said they contacted several other physicians not only in Minnesota but other states as well. The two doctors thought about transferring her to the Twin Cities, but she said they were told they were doing everything that could be done so she stayed at Alomere.

“I had the best care at Alomere, from the doctors and nurses to just everyone,” said Sandy. “To be at my home hospital was the best.”

Bill and Sandy said they had reached out to friends of theirs asking for prayers and that one friend, who does prayer ministry, told them that he started a prayer chain for her and that it reached all over the world.

“That is what helped pull her through,” said Bill, with Sandy saying the same thing. “All those prayers from around the world helped. I know it helped.”

While at Alomere, they also discovered that she had bacterial pneumonia and she was “pumped full of heavy doses of meds” and was also put on a BiPAP machine, which is similar to a C-PAP machine that people who have sleep apnea use. The BiPAP pushes pressurized air into the lungs, opening them up so that patients can get the oxygen they need.


“It was a really scary time for everyone,” said Sandy.

"You don’t want to get to a point where you don’t live and COVID does that to people. You need to get the shot. The after effects are nothing compared to what you could go through having COVID-19. It’s a no-brainer."

— Sandy Buckner

Bill and Sandy have four children and four grandchildren and it was tough on all of them, they said. One of their daughters, Kara Buckner, who lives in Minneapolis, provided updates for friends and family through Sandy’s Facebook page. Kara spent a lot of time talking with her mom’s doctors and nurses via telephone calls and virtual conference calls through Zoom.

On Jan. 9, Sandy was transferred out of the ICU, but stayed at Alomere for nearly another full week. She was discharged on Jan. 14 but was then sent to Knute Nelson Short Term Rehab for two weeks.

“Every single nurse and aide I had were angels,” said Sandy. “They took such good care of me. We laughed a lot and sometimes, they would come to my room if they needed a break so we could laugh some more.”

As if dealing with COVID and all of the repercussions wasn’t enough, Sandy ended up getting shingles while at Knute Nelson. Shingles is the reactivation of a viral infection in the nerves to the skin that causes pain, burning or tingling, along with an itch and blisters on the skin. She said it can be brought on by trauma and that she definitely had her fair share of trauma in the weeks leading up to her shingles diagnosis.

After four days at Knute, Sandy began both occupational and physical therapy. She needed to build up her endurance and muscle strength, as she had become quite weak.


On Feb. 3, she was discharged from Knute and has been home ever since. She is still on oxygen, still has a slight cough and has a home health nurse who stops by on a regular basis, but is finally on the road to a full recovery.

A believer in the vaccine

When talks of the COVID-19 vaccine first began, Sandy said she was never going to get it because there were too many what ifs. However, as time went on, she talked with her doctors, really listening to what they had to say, she said.

She talked with the nurses and doctors while she was at Knute Nelson, which she said was a valuable thing to do. And when she was offered the vaccine while in rehab, she got it and so did Bill, even though he, too, had also already dealt with COVID-19 – just not to the extent his wife did.

“I need to do this, not only for me, but for my family,” said Sandy. “People have to get the shot. Just take the shot!”

Bill chimed in and said, “You don’t want to see a loved one hooked up to the machines like Sandy was. It was a scary time. I don’t wish it on anyone. Get the shot.”

Sandy said that after listening to what the experts had to say and also praying about it, she knew God was also telling her to get the shot to protect herself and her family.

“You don’t want to get to a point where you don’t live and COVID does that to people,” she said. “You need to get the shot. The after effects are nothing compared to what you could go through having COVID-19. It’s a no-brainer.”


Dr. Deb Dittberner, Alomere Health chief medical officer, said she bases her decisions about COVID-19 and its vaccines all on science. And she said when you look at the statistics, the vaccine is working.


She said people could have side effects from getting vaccinated – headache, sore arm, slight fever – but the vaccine is safe. She said the side effects, which are minimal and don’t last long are nothing in comparison to what people – like Sandy Buckner – have dealt with from the actual virus.

She said people can take pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen or Aleve, after having the shot. However, she stressed never to pre-medicate. If people have questions, she said to check with their primary care physician.

“The vaccine works. It is safe and effective,” said Dittberner. “We just need vaccinators. That means putting it in arms.”

Dittberner also said that getting vaccinated isn’t about “the me” aspect, it is about “the we.”

“I don’t vaccinate for myself, I vaccinate for others,” she said. “That’s what we have to do.”

And in an area that is heavily populated by senior citizens, Dittberner said people need and have the ability to protect them by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Deb Dittberner

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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