A Shot in the Dark

Today I am going for my second dose of the Covid vaccine.  I am prepared to feel crappy tomorrow, though I didn’t the first time, so who knows?  I was talking with E about shots the other day, and how she isn’t scared of needles.  She’s a brave girl.  I remembered back to how I felt about shots as a child…it wasn’t good.  There is one vaccine that I’m not 100% sure got in my system., because I refused the shot and when they gave me a liquid vaccine for it, I spit it in the doctor’s face.

My first blood draw, I was maybe 8 or 9.  I was in the hospital for the first time since my birth, and the doc needed blood to figure out what was wrong.

Mom gave me my teddy bear to hold and I tried to be brave and was even curious when the nurse said she was going to use a “butterfly needle.” But then, I panicked, and I kicked that nurse square in the chest.  They had to hold me down to get the blood.  It was not my finest hour.

Then came diabetes at 16, and with that, regular blood work and insulin injections.  If there is any silver liming to diabetes, it is that you learn not to fear needles very quickly.  Firstly, insulin needles just do not feel the way any other needle does.  It’s barely anything.  You’re injecting into fat, not muscle like you would with other shots.  This involves less nerves.  Plus, the needle is super thin, and the thinner it is the less it will hurt.  Blood draws were more painful. after a while I got used to them, and would just look the other way and take a deep breath and wait for the moment to pass.

Then, about five years ago, came gastroparesis, which meant I was getting blood draws and IVs repeatedly. Eventually, my veins blew.

Like…all of the them.

They started using my hands when the arms died.  When those blew, they started forgoing IVs and just giving me muscular shots for medication, which sting.  Then they take blood from my wrists, which hurt at first but doesn’t so much now. 

Last time I was in there, I had to have a central line put in, which is a tube that goes in your neck.  It’s as horrifying as it sounds.  First, you get a shot to numb the area, then they put the thing in, and then they stitch it up.  The whole time, you are lying on your back with plastic sheeting over your face.  That seemed to be the worst part for me though, the feeling of being trapped; of suffocation. 

They gave me my meds through it and it felt like a train hit me, and then I passed out. 

If 8- or 9-year-old me could see me now.  Voluntarily driving two hours away for the sole purpose of a jab in the arm?  Little Brigid would have none of that nonsense.  Heck, you would figure even Big Brigid wouldn’t be interested, what with all the extracurricular pokes and prods I receive.  Alas, here we are.

My parents are now fully vaccinated.  I am about to be fully vaccinated.  Many of my friends and family are in process of getting vaccinated.  Soon, hopefully, we can all breath a collective sigh of relief.

I remain hopeful.

The Event of the Year

To start, I was too nervous to eat.  It wasn’t the shot, or the traveling, or the possible side effects; it was simply that I don’t like new things, people, or places…so, nouns.  I don’t like nouns.

About halfway from my home in Buffalo to the city of Rochester, where I had my appointment, we stopped to buy some cheese at Kutter’s Cheese factory in Corfu.  I ate a few curds of Buffalo wing flavored and tried to calm my nervous stomach, but it didn’t really work.  I drove the rest of the way somewhat apprehensively, hoping that there would be clear signs on the road to lead me to my destination.  As it turned out, the site was only a few minutes away from the NYS Thruway. 

I arrived at the back end of the parking lot, and was greeted by a National Guardsman.  He asked me who was getting the vaccine, and I said me, and he told me to park my car in the lot and go through the big glass doors.  So I did.

I walked into the lobby and zigzagged my way through the ropes to the registration table.  I was given a ticket and told to hang onto it, and then follow the orange cones.  At the end of the cones, there was another National Guardsman directing traffic.  He sent me to table 14.

I sat down and a woman took my health information, ID, and insurance card.  She signed my ticket, and sent me to zig-zag through another line.  It moved pretty fast, but I definitely got the feeling I was waiting in line for a rollercoaster at Six Flags.

A man approached me and escorted me to table 10.  There sat two women.  One had me check my health info and the other, a nurse, asked if I had anaphylactic allergies.  Then, she gave me the shot.  The nurse signed my ticket, told me I would have my second shot in three weeks, and sent me to another National Guardsman, who assigned me a chair to sit and wait. I was permitted to leave when the large screen on the wall read 6:16pm.  So, I played a game on my phone, texted Mark, and then got up and left out the door marked with the giant red exit sign.  The whole thing took maybe a half hour.

I went back to the car and Bernie drove home, just in case I had a sore arm or side effects.  I didn’t.  We stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom, and I ordered a Big Mac.  Then I had a little panic attack and ran back out to the car while Bernie got the food.   In the moment, I couldn’t understand why it was happening, but I know now.  Not only did I desperately need to eat, but I had been so stressed all day, and now the thing I stressed about was over, and not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. 

I ate my Big Mac.  I felt better.  We drove home.

So, some observations… 

One, if you hate needles…you will be fine.  This hurt less than my daily insulin injections, and those barely even register to me.  I honestly didn’t even feel like something touched me, let alone pricked me.  The needle is like the width of a piece of hair, I swear.

Two, everyone I spoke to was an absolute DELIGHT.  Happy to be there, happy to help, just happy overall.  They chatted and joked and made sure everyone was comfortable at all times.  It was extremely reassuring.

Three, it is ridiculously well-organized in there.  I didn’t think it would be, because it’s a mass vaccination site and my parents had already told me how uncomfortable it was going to the drugstore for their shots.  I don’t think a single person was within six feet of me at any time.  Everyone wore masks, of course.  Everything was clean and following guidelines.  There was even an emergency services team onsite in case of allergic reactions.

Finally, the after effects.  I awoke this morning a little congested, but it’;s wearing off as the day goes on so it could just be that time of year.  Stomach is off, but that probably has nothing to do with it.  My arm is a little sore at the injection site, but really that’s the extent of the side effects, for me. 

Overall, the experience was excellent.  And more than that, more than anything, I am happy today because I feel a little safer.  I’m happy because I desperately miss people right now, and once I am vaccinated, I can reach out to them again.  I’m happy because my nightmares of being on a ventilator will likely not be realized any time soon.  I’m happy because I know I am keeping myself safe, and helping keep others safe, too. 

I hope we all feel that way someday soon.