NJ mom, forced to get vaccine before a family wedding, ends up in the ER

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A daughter’s wedding — and all that goes with it — should be about pure joy and celebration. Nothing less.

Yet one New Jersey mother — because of New York City’s COVID vaccine mandates that began last summer — found herself enduring more of a medical emergency than she ever imagined. 

Kathleen Zemlachenko, 63, of Raritan Township, N.J., had chosen not to take the COVID-19 vaccine after consulting with her doctor. Fit and active, Zemlachenko had already tested positive for COVID in January 2021. She had very high antibody levels to prove it.

“I had 3,000 times the antibodies that would have shown somebody as having a positive antibody response,” she told Fox News Digital in a phone interview this week.

Zemlachenko did not feel comfortable getting vaccinated until she had more information about the potential side effects for those who had antibodies to the virus.

But last year, “after New York City Mayor [Bill] DeBlasio’s vaccine mandates came out, I really had no choice,” Zemlachenko told Fox News Digital.

In mid-August 2021, DeBlasio announced his “Key to NYC” vaccine mandate, which required proof of vaccine for patrons who wanted to visit certain Big Apple establishments.

Mom Kathleen Zemlachenko, at right, with her daughter, Emily. Given the New York City vaccine mandates that went into effect last summer, "I had no choice" but to take the vaccine, Zemlachenko told Fox News Digital. 
(Kathleen Zemlachenko)

Unless Zemlachenko took the vaccine, it seemed highly probable that she would not be allowed to join her daughter, Emily — the youngest of her five children (she has three daughters and two sons) — for a wedding-dress fitting experience for mother and daughter at a Manhattan shop ahead of Emily’s November 2021 wedding.

Zemlachenko felt coerced into a difficult decision — and the path she chose wound up putting her life in jeopardy.

Blazing headache, high blood pressure

On August 5, 2021, Zemlachenko received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would give her enough cushion ahead of the mother-daughter dress fitting to be considered “fully vaccinated.” 

But two days after getting the COVID vaccine, Zemlachenko developed a blazing headache and very high blood pressure. 

She was ill enough to land in the emergency room at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J. Her blood-pressure reading was 40 points above her normal readings. 

She and her doctors attributed the episode directly to the vaccine.

Mother and daughter attend to the bride’s beautiful wedding dress. Before this happy time, there was drama, upset — and a medical emergency.
(Kathleen Zemlachenko)

After the scary episode, Zemlachenko was put on medication to help address potentially dangerous hypertension.

Her usual work schedule — she runs a health care consulting business — was disrupted due to multiple trips to the doctor. Her condition resolved eventually, to the relief of her family and friends.

“I think she felt guilty” about what happened, Zemlachenko said of daughter Emily’s reaction to the medical episode.

But Zemlachenko emphasized that New York City’s vaccine mandate and the threats around it are what made her get the jab. The family was simply trying to do their best to follow the rules, with unexpected consequences.

Saying yes to the dress 

After the scare, Zemlachenko was able to attend the wedding-dress fitting with her daughter as planned. She relished the happy time spent with her youngest in Manhattan.

Mother of the bride Kathleen Zemlachenko with daughter Emily, the youngest of her five children, ahead of a very happy day for all.
(Kathleen Zemlachenko)

And, as promised, she kept details of her daughter’s chosen wedding gown secret from the rest of the wedding party. 

In the months leading up to the wedding, bridesmaids and even the groom all tried guessing what the dress would be like — but all lips were sealed. Including Mom’s. 

Lingering mandate concerns 

Zemlachenko is trained as a medical technologist. 

For years she worked in microbiology in a clinical lab, serving as product director for infectious disease testing at Quest Diagnostics. 

Mother and daughter before the beautiful day. Kathleen Zemlachenko says she is not against vaccines in general — she simply believes the choice to take them is a personal decision, she told Fox News Digital.
(Kathleen Zemlachenko)

Given this background, Zemlachenko knows a lot about infectious diseases like COVID. 

Zemlachenko told Fox News Digital that she recommends everyone make their own personal decisions about vaccines, in consultation with their doctors. 

For example, she said she would advise someone she knows, who has asthma, to get the COVID vaccine, as this person is at higher risk from the respiratory virus. 

(Below, a sweet tweet about Emily Zemlachenko’s engagement to her now-husband, Kevin Albert.)

So she’s not against vaccines in general. 

Kathleen Zemlachenko gets a flu shot every year, she said. 


She simply feels that the decision to take the COVID vaccine should be a personal choice — and not one mandated by a government authority.

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