Thrive by IU Health

June 02, 2021

Great grandma, 85, rolls up her sleeve: ‘I want to see my Family’

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Great grandma, 85, rolls up her sleeve: ‘I want to see my Family’

She’s not accustomed to sitting still and slowing down. Yet, like many, a pandemic built somewhat of a wall around Barbara Miller. She got the shot so she could get back to enjoying life.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes

On a recent Monday morning, Barbara Miller awoke at 7 a.m., curled her hair, put on her makeup, and dressed in black slacks and a leopard print blouse. By early morning, she was ready for her 10:30 a.m. appointment at IU Health Neuroscience Center where she would receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Even beneath her facemask, Miller was smiling.

Barbara Miller eager to get her COVID-19 Vaccine

“I’m eager to get the vaccine so I can be around my kids,” said Miller, accompanied by IU Health employee Julie Ruschhaupt, who is married to Miller’s son, John. Miller. She is also the mother to a son, David, grandmother to three, and great grandmother to one.

In Indiana, where age is among the biggest contributors to COVID-19, state health officials began vaccinating residents 80 and older earlier this month and recently expanded to include those 70 and up. Statistically, residents 80 and older represent nearly four percent of the state’s population, but nearly 20 percent of hospitalizations, and more than half of COVID-related deaths.

Miller is among that 80-and-over age group. Her mom, Josephine Shearer, delivered her firstborn at their Shelby County home on a July day in 1935. Miller was raised on a farm and remembers attending first grade in a one-room school.

“I didn’t live a very exciting life. I was expected to do chores with my siblings, and we played in the dirt and in the fields,” said Miller. She married twice – the first was for 31 years, the second for 22 years. She’s been widowed since 2014.

One of her first jobs as a teen was working as a carhop serving up foot-long hotdogs with frosty mugs of root beer. She earned 30 cents and hour. She hasn’t stopped working since that first job. She went on to serve as a cashier for the former A & P grocery and eventually “retired” from Kroger. For the past 14 years she has worked as a leasing agent for Muessing Apartments. She likes to garden – especially mow the lawn - and decorate her home, but mostly she enjoys spending time with her family. She’s known for bringing her deviled eggs to holiday gatherings.

“I’ve hardly ever been sick. This whole virus has messed things up for me,” said Miller. The only time she has slowed down recently was when her high heels tripped her up and she fell and broke her arm. Under the best circumstances, Miller drives to Shelbyville to visit her son, schedules regular manicures, and runs errands for friends.

“She likes being with younger people because the conversations aren’t just about health and medicine,” said Ruschhaupt. She was 15, when she first met Miller, and recognized early on her mother-in-law’s strength, and her encouragement of others.

“When I was in high school I ran for Shelby County fair queen and I won. I could hear her from the stands yelling, ‘I did it. I did it.’ She was so proud that she’d made a lady out of me,” said Ruschhaupt. “Later, when I went to nursing school at the age of 23, she was behind me every step of the way,” added Ruschhaupt who started working at IU Health Methodist Hospital as a student nurse 27 years ago. “Barbara optimizes female strength and determination,” said Ruschhaupt.

So it was no surprise that Miller was eager to roll up her sleeve and receive a vaccine to protect her against COVID-19.

“I don’t remember a lot of history these days. My neighbor boy yelled over to tell me World War II had ended. I remember we jumped and hollered and I fell into a thorn bush,” said Miller. But as she became one of thousands to receive the vaccine, Miller said: “I don’t think I’ll forget this day, though. I’m ready to get back out and enjoy life.”

IU Health employees and volunteers who are staffing the vaccine clinic are available to help anyone requiring special assistance. A private waiting area is available inside the Neuroscience Center specifically for patients 80 and older. Hoosiers can register for the vaccine at ourshot.in.gov. Vaccinations are free and family members can register for a senior. Hoosiers can also register by calling 211 between 8 am and 8 pm seven days a week.

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