This Woman Has Helped Over 400 Seniors Schedule Vaccine Appointments

She saw a need for help—and didn't hesitate to step up to the plate.

Marla Zwinggi with her father, David Komocki, at a Cleveland Browns gameCourtesy Marla Zwinggi
Marla Zwinggi with the first person she helped: her dad, David Komocki

Marty Verel, a 59-year-old kidney transplant recipient in Ohio, should have been near the top of the list to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Yet like millions of others, he wasn’t having any luck scheduling an appointment. Marty and his wife, Nancy Verel, would sit with computers on their laps trying for hours to book an appointment on different sites, all of which were slow and convoluted. “I felt hopeless,” Nancy says.

Then Nancy heard about Marla Zwinggi, a 40-year-old mom of three from a Cleveland suburb who was spending up to ten hours a day online trying to secure appointments for vulnerable individuals. So Nancy messaged Zwinggi on Facebook: Can you help? Twenty-five minutes later, Zwinggi responded by asking for ­Marty’s legal name, date of birth, and other information. Nine minutes after that, Zwinggi reported back—Marty had an appointment to get the vaccine.

Zwinggi’s vaccine hunting started on February 1, when she learned that her parents—her father has leukemia and her mother is a breast cancer survivor with a heart ­condition—were unable to get appointments themselves. She hated that they had to wait. Clicking around on vaccine registration sites, Zwinggi, who has helped her husband develop websites, discovered just how difficult it was to book an appointment. “It was like trying to get a World Series ticket,” she says.

She applied strategies that web insiders are familiar with (keeping multiple browsers open, refreshing sites every 20 seconds, erasing cookies) and added a few of her special skills. “I’m tenacious. I drink a lot of coffee, and I’m a fast typer,” she says. Soon enough, Zwinggi had secured appointments for both of her parents. “I felt like a rock star,” she says.

Zwinggi decided that helping others would be her way of giving back. “I feel like I need to will us out of this pandemic,” she says. On February 10, she logged on to Facebook to let people know that she was assisting with bookings. By March 2, she’d secured appointments for 400 people, a feat that made Nancy conclude, “Marla is some sort of ­COVID angel.”

Next, read stories from people who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest