COVID-19 vaccine comes with marriage proposal for South Dakota nurse

CANTON, S.D. — A dose of the COVID-19 vaccine had a joyful side effect for a South Dakota man -- a marriage proposal.

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On Dec. 23, Eric Vanderlee, a registered nurse in Canton, was preparing to administer the vaccine to his boyfriend, Robby Vargas-Cortes, an emergency medical supervisor, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

But Vargas-Cortes had something up his left sleeve -- an engagement ring taped to his arm.

“I wanted for it to be a surprise,” Vargas-Cortes told CNN.

The moment at the Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center was captured on video.

When Vargas-Cortes saw the tape on Vanderlee’s arm, he thought his boyfriend was jokingly showing him where to inject him, “like a bull’s eye or something.”

The video has received more than 6,700 likes on Facebook.

“It’s been kind of a crazy year, and you know it’s been a fun ride to have you in my life,” Vargas-Cortes, 31, tells Vanderlee as he proposes.

Vanderlee, 26, told The New York Times that the proposal caught him completely off-guard.

The proposal was a bright spot for Vanderlee, who lost his 86-year-old grandfather in November to COVID-19, the newspaper reported.

“He was the healthiest guy,” Vanderlee told the Times. “He had no issues, and all of a sudden he was gone.”

Vanderlee and Vargas-Cortes said they were humbled by the “outpouring of love and support” they have received online.

“This just brought a new wave of joy,” Vanderlee told the Times.

“South Dakota is a very conservative state. We wouldn’t have had the right to marry without the Supreme Court,” Vargas-Cortes told CNN. “So to see such an outpouring of support, especially from our fellow South Dakotans, has been uplifting.

“It gives me a new confidence to be okay 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.”

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