Wednesday at noon I found myself in the same spot I did 3 weeks prior, in line to get my COVID-19 vaccine. This time the news media was not following me which was a nice change and Leighton also joined Coppelia and I to be the official photographer. Also there were a number of us checking in, and about half the group was there for their first shot, they had two clinics running, the Pfizer which I got and a Moderna clinic as well. I was excited to see an elderly gentleman getting in line for his first dose of the Moderna along side one of our firefighters. My check in was pretty easy….especially since everyone knew me and before long Leighton, Coppelia and I were at the door waiting. I realized once again I was first, but I had a growing line forming behind me. The vaccine was quickly being thawed and it was again one of my favorite nurses getting my shot ready. Initially I had Coppelia on my lap but I think she took the situation in and decided she would rather stand on the other side of me as far away as possible from the shot just in case Jenn decided to give her the shot instead. Leighton captured it all and we went to the post vaccine waiting area. I grabbed the kids some juice which they were glad to pull their masks down and enjoy. While they were enjoying their juice I decided to take one of our techs advice and do some pushups. He had said after the first one he had very little arm soreness because he did pushups right after. So I dropped to the ground and did a number. Then we waiting out our 15 minutes and slowly the post vaccine area filled with some people and we had a good time talking with one of our nurses and techs who were waiting out their 15 minutes as well. When our 15 minutes were up I stuck my head in the door and told everyone thank you again and then headed out the side door. Once outside on the sidewalk I had second thoughts about the pushups and questioned whether I had done enough inside, so just to be safe I dropped on the sidewalk and did another 15 or so. That totally embarrassed Leighton which was kind of funny…..and if I had glanced around the parking lot a little more it would have embarrassed me as well realizing that there was a fire crew parked at the other end waiting for their crew member to get his shot finished. But oh well. We loaded up and came home where I did another 15 or so just to be safe. And then kind of waited to see what would happen. Everyone had said that the second vaccine has more side effects. I was tired that day but that’s not a new thing….I work as an ER doctor and have 5 kids that are 6 years apart in age…hello being tired is just a way of life. But surprisedly my arm didn’t hurt….so I was thinking the push ups paid off and I was good. And went to bed feeling fine. And then 11:45 hit….I woke up with terrible chills and body aches like I’ve never had before. Everything hurt and my teeth were chattering despite having flannel sheets and a heavy comforter (normally I throw the comforter off and have my feet sticking out the sheets because I get too warm at night. I also had two pillows that you warm in the microwave wrapped around me and I was still shivering and feeling terrible. I finally took some Ibuprofen around 2AM and that helped a bit and I got a little sleep, but didn’t feel all that great in the morning but I limped through teaching the kids school. By the afternoon I was still running a fever and everything hurt and totally wiped out. I reached out to my partners to see how they were doing….everyone else was feeling great and my 66 year old Emergency Department Director sent me a video of him doing 2 foot box jumps and lifting weights….meanwhile I was ready to celebrate the fact that I made it all the way from the couch to the bedroom barely. So I looked up what was going on and found out that they have been finding that younger people are having way more side effects post vaccine than the older population because of our immune systems. So I guess I’m thankful for my youth and immune response even though it made me feel terrible…but in all honesty, I am humbled and thankful to have received the vaccine and to have made it 10 months on the front lines swimming in COVID every shift and never getting it and to be honored to get the vaccine and know that my risks of serious illness are now a worry of the past. That being said as one of my good nurses/friends told me, “we never want to have to be the first”. And that’s true, I wish there wasn’t a deadly pandemic that had put all my colleagues but in reality they are my dear friends and work family at risk each and every day these past 10 months. It’s changed all of us and its been awful.
So I covered the good- push ups helped my arm not hurt. And the bad-being young and having a good immune system made me feel terrible, and while I’m better Friday and actually got a run in I still have pretty rough headaches and my GI system is a bit wonky. But what’s the ugly? The UGLY is that really nothing is going to change in how I approach life and work now that I’m protected by the vaccine…..why? Because while I am now 95-100% safe from getting seriously ill from the virus it doesn’t prevent me from spreading it to others and I’m still swimming in it daily. So it’s still double masks, goggles, gloves, hair caps, gowns, the whole nine yards with showering and changing before I come home. And I’m still 6 feet apart from everyone and wearing masks all over the place. I’m still a big risk to everyone else and will continue to be until everyone is protected. I have cared for people who between their first and second doses of the vaccine contracted COVID 19, on no fault of their own, but it happens in the environment the we are all in, and have gotten really really sick and spread it to their family. So for everyone planning big parties the day that they get the vaccine I’m asking that you wait unless you are at the opposite end of the line from me the very last person….then we can talk about a party and throwing the masks away (although I do have to love the lack of strep and flu and common cold that I am not seeing this year in my patients).
While my journey with the vaccine wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns (although my 5 year old daughter wishes it was) I would still ask everyone to get their vaccine when it becomes available to them. Our town is expanding it out to 70 year olds this week and that is going to continue to expand and grow. So wait and be safe and careful and respect the health and lives of those around you, and then run in and get your shots when it’s time.