Come for a vaccine, stay for a proposal: Paramedic pulls off surprise engagement


CANTON, S.D. (KELO) — Every couple has an engagement story that’s special to them, but a South Dakota health care worker planned a proposal that’s also unique to the times.

Both Robby Vargas-Cortes and Eric Vander Lee work at Sanford Canton Inwood Medical Center in Canton, South Dakota.

Vander Lee, a registered nurse, was set to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to Vargas-Cortes, an EMS supervisor, two days before Christmas. But Vargas-Cortes had a ring up his sleeve, literally, for Vander Lee.

“It kind of popped in my head that maybe I would just tape it to my arm, that way when he rolled up the sleeve then he would see it right there … that’s kind of what happened,” Vargas-Cortes told NewsNation affiliate KELOLAND Media Group. “I went in and got registered for my vaccine and sat down, and he was there, told me to roll up my sleeve.”

Once Vander Lee realized what was happening, Vargas-Cortes asked him to marry him.

“I think I, like, nodded. I mean, it’s like, I always knew … between him and I, this isn’t a question,” Vander Lee said. “I mean, we’ve obviously talked about this, so it wasn’t like he was worried I would say no, I don’t think.”

“I was kind of toying with the idea in my head for probably about a week when I found out that Eric was going to be helping administer vaccines at our hospital, and I was like, well, maybe I could tie it into that somehow,” Vargas-Cortes said.

Vander Lee jabbed Vargas-Cortes with the COVID-19 vaccine shortly after they got engaged.

“It’s definitely going to be something that’s super memorable for the, for many years to come,” Vargas-Cortes said.

“As a nurse, we’ve seen people struggling and obviously seen many, many people die, so to have just this terribly hard year and then know that there is some hope to kind of tie that into our own relationship is something that I think is really cool,” Vander Lee said.

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