COVID CHRONICLES, May 7, 2021
After almost a year hiatus, The Chronicles are back! There’s been lots of water under the bridge since I last wrote in June 2020. The biggest change is that my relationship became a “COVID Casualty” that same month and we’re in the process of getting divorced. I won’t be going into details. I will simply say that we’re not alone. The “COVID Breakup” is a thing.
Now, on to the present. Despite there being no doubt I was exposed to COVID-19 in March 2020 and in quarantine with someone who tested positive for 40 days, I’ve never experienced a single symptom. I have no antibodies. My speculation based on limited research is that it’s related to my 0 negative blood type (a likely topic for a future post).
In any case, I’m in good health and not in a risk category other than age. I don’t work on the front lines, nor am I in close contact with people who are high risk. I’ve faithfully washed my hands and worn my mask. In short, while I definitely planned to be vaccinated, I was in no hurry and happy to wait my turn.
My attitude changed on March 25th when Governor Newsom announced that Californians ages 50–64 would become eligible for the vaccine as of April 1 (not a joke, it turned out) with everyone 16 and older becoming eligible two weeks later. Suddenly there was incentive to get vaccinated sooner rather than later. I decided I would stay up late on Wednesday night 3/31 (the night after my birthday) and see if appointments suddenly opened up after midnight.
Silly me. Nada.
Nor were there any the next day. Nor the day after that. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a single appointment available closer than 100 miles away. The weekend went by, then Monday. By Tuesday the 6th, I was only checking three times a day to avoid frustration.
That night, while at a friend’s house getting ready to channel switch between the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants, she mentioned that she’d gotten her appointment when she checked on a lark and an end-of-the-day slot appeared if she could get there in less than an hour, which she did. So, even though I’d checked before leaving home, I gave it one more shot before the games started.
There before me was an entire screen of unblemished appointments for the next day at the converted drive-in theatre location five minutes from my house. They appeared to have all three vaccines available. I thought about making a request, then decided I would take what they gave me, signed up for a 9:10 a.m. slot and happily settled in to watch the ball games.
I was more excited than I expected when I got up the next morning, a feeling that carried through the entire appointment. I took ibuprofen before I left home (which I was later advised against) because I always suffer arm soreness after vaccinations. Sitting in my car behind an already long line, I felt part of something. I wanted to roll down my window and shout, “Isn’t it great?” A feeling of relief slowly snuck up on me as I progressed through the car line. When my turn came, I said I wanted my shot in my right arm, because I’m still recovering from left shoulder surgery. I didn’t even feel the injection — it was over in a moment. After, I looked down at the card handed back to me. I’d been sorted into House Moderna.
Now, forgive me for the brief diversion from the story. But may I say that the controversy over people having a little fun with a Harry Potter theme and a pretend competition is just the latest example of how we’ve collectively lost our minds during the pandemic…
Pain, redness and swelling are the most commonly reported side effects on the arm getting the shot. I expected to have a reaction since I commonly do when getting my annual flu shot. I had left shoulder surgery last November, so cleverly decided to get the injection in the right arm so I didn’t aggravate my healing shoulder. MISTAKE! I ended up with two inflamed shoulders, unable to lie on either side to sleep. D’oh!
I experienced some fatigue and intestinal upset, but it was hard to attribute either one directly to the vaccine at the time. Overall, not too bad. And I felt lighter, like there was finally light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
When I received my first shot on April 7th, my second dose appointment was immediately scheduled for Wednesday, May 5th (I’m not sure why it was four rather than three weeks). By the time that came around, I’d heard the following advice:
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate — While this is always a good thing to do, this time I made a conscious effort to drink plenty of water throughout the 48 hours leading up to my appointment. I supplemented with some ginger ale. Gatorade is also recommended.
- Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine — Since both are diuretics, these do the opposite of hydrating (same with grapefruit). I did have a drink the night before and a cup of coffee in the morning. But I was mindful and made sure I matched each with water.
- Don’t Take Over the Counter Drugs (OCD)–Taking ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, antihistamines or other OCDs prior to receiving your vaccination is not recommended unless you take them regularly under doctor’s orders. These can mask serious side effects. I avoided ibuprofen until a few hours after when I needed to take it to treat significant knee pain.
- Keep Your Arm Moving — Instead of babying it and keeping it stationary, I continued to move it throughout the day.
The second dose was the one I’d heard people complain about most. I prepared myself for side effects including:
- Tiredness (maybe my fatigue the first time WAS due to the shot)
- Muscle pain
- Nausea (my issues were further down)
My second appointment was again just down the road. But what a difference from last time! Where there had been long lines, there was no more than a 2–3 car wait. Second doses got a separate lane, so I was in very quickly. The lack of traffic gave me pause. Were the first lines pent up demand for the second dose? Did they spread people out better the second time? Or are people not returning for the second dose?
PSA: Don’t skip the second dose because you are lazy or afraid of side effects. You need the second to insure immunity. And the thing about the side effects? They aren’t nearly as bad as getting the virus. So, if you’ve waited, don’t delay. Get your second dose today!
This time I got the shot in my left arm so I knew I could sleep. The injection hurt more going in compared to last time. My shoulder was sore but less so. I experienced some fatigue and went to bed early. I had some intestinal discomfort again. But otherwise, now more than 55 hours post-vaccination, I seem to have avoided any serious symptoms. My biggest problem was actually my knee, which went out earlier in the week as it does occasionally and will until I get a replacement.
As of May 19 — the same day I hope to have my healing shoulder medically cleared — I will be fully immune. What does this mean? Practically it means I can travel to see my Mom in Florida for the first time in more than a year and a half, start participating in activities with groups and crowds, and planning vacations. I will still wear a mask when appropriate.
From a health standpoint? I don’t believe it means much at all. As I mentioned earlier, by all measures I should have come down with the coronavirus or at least have antibodies explaining why I had no symptoms. I did not and have none. So, it isn’t surprising that I didn’t have any major vaccine side effects either. Without any scientific evidence to back me up, I do believe I and others like me may have a built-in immunity. It at least seems worth further study.
Oh, and I officially qualified for this:
Overall, I’m feeling grateful. I’m grateful for modern medicine and public health. I’m grateful for federal and state governments that have risen to the crisis at hand. I’m grateful for all the medical providers and volunteers involved in the vaccine program. And I will never stop being grateful for all the heroes who have served on the front lines for more than a year while the vaccines were being developed. We’re not out of the dark forest yet. But at least we can see the light.
Stay safe, my friends. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated.