Local woman encourages vaccines by sharing story of heartache

August, 31, 2021

Photo caption: Sherry Privett, a CMA at Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton, shared her story about losing an unvaccinated loved one to COVID-19. Photo by Tyler Stutzman, Bluestem Communities.

NORTH NEWTON, Kan. – Sherry Privett was familiar with the many ways COVID-19 affects people. As a certified medical assistant (CMA) at Bluestem Communities’ Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton, she had seen the psychological, emotional and physical effects of COVID-19 and its associated restrictions. She was part of a staff team that had worked hard and successfully at largely keeping the virus out of the Kidron Bethel health care and assisted living facilities, and through that, she recognized the benefits of masking and vaccines.

Then in the spring of 2021, COVID-19 became much more personal. Now Privett wants others to hear about and understand how the disease has affected her life.

In May 2021, Privett, her 17-year-old daughter and her daughter’s father, Joe, all tested positive for COVID-19. Privett had been vaccinated a few months before and never developed any symptoms. Her daughter and Joe, both of whom were unvaccinated, did have symptoms. Fortunately, her daughter recovered.

“Joe’s symptoms worsened,” said Privett. “He was hospitalized and moved into the ICU. He was intubated, sedated and placed on a mechanical ventilator. He passed away on May 12, 2021.”

Suddenly, the tragic ending Privett had been fortunate to avoid even working among the most vulnerable population, became her new harsh reality.

“Our daughter sat at her dad’s bedside every day during visiting hours,” said Privett. “She watched him being taken off the ventilator and gasp for his last breath. She lost her dad at the age of 17, and now I watch her try to understand why this happened. Joe left us way too early. I lost my best friend and my co-parenting partner. In addition to the pain of our loss, having to watch him suffer, struggle to breathe and watching his vital signs fall far below survivable parameters with his heart working overtime was very hard for us.”

Privett can’t help but wonder how things might have been different. Just a short time before being diagnosed with COVID-19, she had convinced Joe to get vaccinated, but the positive test came before he had a chance to follow through.

“Would Joe have survived if he would have been vaccinated?” said Privett. “I don’t know; nobody does. But I do know that he would have had a better chance if he would have been fully vaccinated.”

Instead she watches her daughter and Joe’s other children struggle to settle into a new kind of life without their dad.

“The pain we have all been through is surreal,” she said. “Watching my children hurt and cry breaks my heart even more.”

As another COVID-19 wave surges in the local area and across the country, Privett’s message is simple: get the vaccine and avoid preventable heartbreak for yourself and those you love.

“I encourage everyone to please get vaccinated,” she said. “The vaccine helps protect you and everyone you come in contact with. Help prevent the spread of this horrible pandemic!” 

“Some people believe that COVID isn’t real, but it is,” said Privett. “Some people say it’s a joke. It is not. I know because our world has been forever changed.” 


Bluestem Communities is a nonprofit organization in central Kansas made up of several retirement communities and programs dedicated to serving those 55 and better. For more information, visit