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June 4th, 2021

Mercy Goes Above & Beyond in COVID-19 Vaccination Effort

Patient with underlying health conditions receives COVID-19 vaccine

To date, Mercy Regional Medical Center has given nearly 10,500 COVID-19 vaccinations. With each vaccination we move one step closer to normalcy. Though the COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, some people with underlying health conditions have legitimate reasons to be cautious. Recently, Mercy Regional Medical Center had the privilege of helping one such community member safely receive his COVID-19 vaccination.

Doug Lenberg moved to Durango in 1998. A former hot air balloon pilot turned balloon meister, event organizer and owner of OTR Hot Air Balloon Adventures, Doug’s love of ballooning spans three decades. In 1998, Doug helped to organize the Snowdown Balloon Rally, and since then he has gone on to organize multiple rallies from the Animas Valley Balloon Rally in Durango to the Steamboat Springs Balloon Rodeo.

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“I love hosting balloon rallies for the community,” Doug said. “I don’t charge anything to attend the rallies because I want everyone to be able to come out and enjoy them.”

Upon meeting Doug, you are struck by his enthusiasm, kindness and love of life. Judging from his upbeat personality and fit stature it’s hard to imagine that Doug has had to face life-threatening health challenges.

In 2004, Doug was diagnosed with a rare blood condition which can cause allergic reactions so severe he can go into anaphylactic shock. Immediately following his diagnosis, Doug and his wife, Sylvia, changed their diet and began to increase their physical activity.

Because Doug lived such a healthy lifestyle it was completely unexpected when 10 years later, while he was piloting his balloon at the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, Doug began experience severe chest pains.

“At first I thought it was nothing, but to be safe, I radioed my chase crew,” Doug explained in an American Heart Association video. “Then my left arm became useless and I started looking for a place to land.”

As luck would have it, Doug came upon a large parking lot, was able to land the balloon and keep his passengers safe before losing consciousness.

Doug was quickly transported by EMTs to the University of New Mexico Hospital where he was diagnosed with a heart attack involving one of the major arteries of his heart. Less than 90 minutes after Doug noticed the pains in his chest, he was receiving the three stents that would save his life. In the following years, Doug has required the placement of 5 more stents. Doug’s medical conditions put him at high-risk of serious complications and illness should he contract the coronavirus. His medical team, including his primary care provider, cardiologist and oncologist, all agreed that it would be in Doug’s best interest to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, with Doug’s underlying health conditions, it was vital that certain precautions be followed to ensure his safety. Doug’s oncologist created a medical protocol outlining what must be done for Doug to receive the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine effort in New Mexico – where Doug now resides – is being led by the state’s public health department. The department did not have the resources or capability to accommodate the necessary protocols needed. That’s when Doug’s primary care provider contacted Dr. Chris Hudson, Mercy Regional Medical Center's Chief Medical Officer.

With the support of Mercy Regional Medical Center’s Vaccine Coordinator Kraig Jones, who is leading Mercy Regional Medical Center’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts, Mercy Regional Medical Center was able to accommodate Doug’s medical protocol and provide a safe environment in which Doug could receive his vaccine. Doug was scheduled for the first vaccine appointment of the day. Mercy Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department was prepared to offer medical assistance should Doug have a negative reaction after receiving the vaccine. Rebekah Keil, CNA on Mercy Regional Medical Center’s Ortho/Spine unit, stayed with and observed Doug for one-hour before he was released home. In the following days, Doug experienced mild side effects but nothing more.

Grateful for the extra care provided by Mercy Regional Medical Center to ensure his safety, Doug encourages others with similar underlying health conditions and concerns to speak with their primary care provider.

“I know there are more people out there like me who are nervous to get vaccinated because of underlying health conditions,” Doug said. “I would encourage them to reach out to their primary care provider who can create a protocol and work with Mercy to ensure their safety.”

“You are not an imposition,” Doug added. “Mercy wants to work with you to ensure you can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

For more information or to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, visit:

If you are a provider interested in discussing vaccination options for one of your patients, please call 970-764-1697.