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WATCH: Vaccine appointment turns into an unexpected marriage proposal

The vaccine marriage proposal
Robbie Vargas-Cortes proposes to partner Eric Vanderlee (Photo: Sanford Health/Facebook)

When registered nurse Eric Vanderlee was tasked with administering a COVID-19 vaccine to his boyfriend, Robbie Vargas-Cortes, an Emergency Medical Service Supervisor, he couldn’t have predicted how it would play out.

Vanderlee is from Canton, South Dakota. He and Vargas-Cortes both work for Sanford Health, and Vanderlee has been busy administering the vaccines to frontline health workers.

This particular session took place on December 23, 2020. Sanford Health shared video footage on Facebook on New Year’s Eve, prompting thousands of shares and hundreds of comments.

Related: Jonathan Van Ness reveals he secretly got married in summer 2020

Vargas-Cortes rolls up his sleeve and appears to have tape on his arm. Vanderlee thought at first it was to indicate where he should inject the vaccine. In fact, Vargas-Cortes had taped an engagement ring beneath his sleeve.

“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, says, before revealing the ring.

Sanford Health registered nurse gives fellow employee the vaccine, receives surprise in return

Eric Vanderlee, a registered nurse in Canton, South Dakota, has been helping administer the COVID-19 vaccine to local health care workers. But he noticed something strange when he went to give the shot to one fellow Sanford Health employee. Robby Vargas-Cortes, an EMS supervisor and Eric’s boyfriend, had an engagement ring taped to his arm. Robby got his vaccine – and an enthusiastic yes from his now fiancé. Congratulations, Eric and Robby!

Posted by Sanford Health on Thursday, December 31, 2020

Vanderlee, 26, says “yes”, to the delight of his co-workers, who appeared just as surprised as he is by the proposal.

Later, on Instagram, Vanderlee posted a photo of his engagement ring: “Today I drove through a blizzard to administer COVID-19 vaccine in Canton. When Robby pulled up his sleeve for his shot, there was a ring!! 😱😍 I am so happy and shocked! As we usher Covid into history, I am so excited for the future.”


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A post shared by Eric Vander Lee (@ejvl)

Vargas-Cortes told CNN he’d had the ring for three years and had been waiting for the right moment to pop the question.

Related: Witness the rare, gay double-proposal that went viral

Besides the challenges of helping others during the pandemic, the couple have been touched by personal loss in recent months. Vanderlee told the New York Times his 86-year-old grandfather died from COVID-19 in November.

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

Vanderlee told CNN that it was important to him to be part of the vaccination program.

“I want to be a part of this end. I feel like I can’t pass this up. It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the one giving the vaccine if I have the chance.”

The couple says they will plan their wedding for after the pandemic has passed.


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A post shared by Eric Vander Lee (@ejvl)