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CU Nursing Student Chris Battelli

Childhood Shaped His Perspective

Despite being raised in a vaccine-hesitant household, Battelli has been able to convince his mother to get the COVID-19 vaccine

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Written by Dana Brandorff on December 2, 2021

Whether it’s learning to drive, graduating high school, or moving out, there’s a lot of freedom that comes with young adulthood. For Christopher Battelli, the transition from child to young adult meant the ability to make his own medical decisions.

“For my entire childhood, I was unvaccinated and part of the ‘exempt’ crowd.” Against his mother’s wishes, he chose to get vaccinated when he was 18. “I did a lot of soul searching and research and decided the science was too overwhelming not to get vaccinated. My mother was not happy.”

Vaccine Hesitancy Born from Personal Experience

Battelli was interviewed recently with Denver Channel 7 regarding the hesitation of vaccination.

Battelli says his parents, especially his mother, have always been skeptical of vaccines and distrustful of the health care system. “I can’t fault them as their distrust was rooted in personal experience and a fear that any health issue could destroy their life savings.”

Lack of insurance, fear of the cost of health care, and not being listened to by providers when they did have appointments, compounded the negative impression they had of the system. “I grew up in a very generous household. My mother believes strongly in helping others and taking care of them and that it’s the right thing to do. She is fiercely independent and did not trust health care or vaccinations.”

When Battelli’s sister was young, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. “Early on my mother even suggested Lyme disease to the providers, which was ignored.” But after months of misdiagnoses, tests, and bills, the diagnosis came back. Recalling the incident, Battelli says, “Being disregarded and not heard is extremely frustrating and causes feelings of being marginalized.”

Another encounter that shaped his family’s perceptions was when his father died during his senior year at Colorado State University. “I absolutely think our system failed him. It was baffling to see the number of times he went in and out of the hospital with untreated mental health issues.” According to Battelli, the nursing staff made it less painful. “I can remember the nurses’ names. I don’t recall a single doctor.” That was the seminal event that changed his outlook and pushed him into a nursing career through the University of Colorado College of Nursing Accelerated pathway (UCAN).

Anthropology Degree Helped Look at Situations Differently

After graduating from CSU with a degree in Anthropology, he worked in public health consulting for a few years. “My undergraduate degree helped me look through a different lens. I use it every day,” says Battelli. His childhood, life experiences, and education have shaped how he views people, patients, and situations. It helps him understand that we may have different values and don’t always have to agree. “Arguing with people who disagree with you, belittling them, and not understanding where they come from is not effective,” says Battelli. He suggests listening and trying to understand how they have come to their viewpoints. “Things aren’t always black and white. But there’s been this polarization when it comes to COVID and vaccinations.”

For Battelli, the difference of opinion has become a lesson in acceptance and a roadmap for how he might handle similar situations in the future. He and his sister were even able to convince their mother into getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by appealing to her travel bug. “She was resistant, but her strong desire to travel outweighed her reticence to get the vaccine,” says Battelli. Sometimes knowing your patient, empathizing with them, and providing them with data are the best ways to handle differences of opinions. Intending to grow his skills and technical expertise, Battelli has his eyes on working at a progressive care unit of a hospital post-graduation.