A gay nurse was left reeling when he sat down to give his boyfriend a coronavirus vaccine, only to discover that he had an engagement ring taped to his arm.
Eric Vanderlee, a registered nurse in Canton, South Dakota, volunteered to help administer the coronavirus vaccine to frontline healthcare workers in the Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Centre, where both he and his fiancé work.
The result was that he ended up administering the vaccine to his boyfriend of five years, Robbie Vargas-Cortes, on 23 December – but his boyfriend had a trick up his sleeve.
When Vargas-Cortes rolled up his sleeve, Vanderlee saw that he had tape on his arm. He initially thought it was a joke – a guide to help him administer the vaccine in the right place – but it was something else entirely.
Vargas-Cortes pulled off the tape to reveal an engagement ring, prompting the entire health centre to dissolve into a collective gasp of joy.
“It just kind of dawned on me and I was like, ‘Absolutely, of course, yes,'” Vanderlee told CNN of the incredible moment.
Gay nurse administered coronavirus vaccine after getting engaged
“It was just an amazing moment after I figured it out.”
After he said yes, Vanderlee had to administer the vaccine to his fiancé, and within just 10 minutes, Vargas-Cortes – a paramedic – was on his way out the door to respond to an ambulance call.
Vargas-Cortes revealed in an interview with CNN that he had the ring for three years before he finally popped the question on 23 December. He had been waiting for the right moment to propose.
“We’re nearing the end of the pandemic. The vaccine is kind of like a new chapter,” he said.
Their engagement comes at the end of a turbulent and heartbreaking period for the couple. In November, Vanderlee’s grandfather sadly passed away aged 86 after contracting COVID-19.
It was after watching his grandfather battle the virus that he decided to volunteer to help roll out vaccines in an effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end – and ultimately, to save lives.
“I want to be a part of this end. I feel like I can’t pass this up. It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the one giving the vaccine if I have the chance,” he said.
Speaking after getting engaged, Vargas-Cortes said: “It gives me a new confidence to be OK with who we are. I always say I’m too scared to hold his hand in public, and now that this has happened, that seems kind of silly.”