4.25.2021

My experience with the COVID-19 vaccine

I lucked out in getting a COVID-19 vaccine because on the day that I became eligible, I wasn't able to get an appointment, so I figured I would have to wait a while. However, as I was walking home from my essential job, I had a feeling that I should walk into Walgreens and try to get on a waiting list, in case someone cancelled. I talked to a pharmacist and explained how I was eligible (I was eligible in three work categories, which makes sense because I have five different gigs), and she put me on a list, telling me that I would have to show up soon after they called. I said no problem, since I lived very close, so could get there in minutes. 

I assumed that I wouldn't get a call, but miraculously I did that same day, and I happened to be walking home from the gym, which was also not far from the pharmacy. I ran over there and was stunned because I'm pretty sure I was the only person called in from the list that day, and I sat in the chair repeatedly thanking them because I'd spent the past year going to work and even teaching an in-person class, which had made me feel stressed.

Right after I got the Moderna shot, I was lightheaded and dizzy, and they had me sit in a chair. The dizziness subsided but the lightheadness didn't, but I walked home anyway, assuming I'd get better, especially because I'd just done an intense workout and figured that probably affected how I was responding to the vaccine. But the lightheadness and some dizziness stayed with me for a couple of days. I basically felt like I had a kind of brain fog, and if I tried to read something, it was hard for me to concentrate on the words. I could still work, but I couldn't focus in on details and I just powered through. When the fog disappeared I felt better, so I was in the clear.

Because I'd been a walk-in, I didn't have an automatic appointment for the second shot. I went into Walgreens and then called them a couple days later to let them know that I was due for a second shot, and I assumed I'd get it towards the end of the eligibility period. But again, miraculously, they called me in right away, and what's even more amazing is that I usually have to work on Sunday, but I happened to not be scheduled that day. So I got the shot on Saturday, would have all day Sunday to deal with the symptoms, and then go to work on Monday.

But my experience after the second Moderna shot was worse. At first, I felt a bit tired, and after I took a nap, I woke up feeling fine. I thought I'd dodged the dreaded symptoms that everyone was talking about, but late on Saturday night, I woke up with the worst headache I'd ever had, accompanied with serious nausea. I spent the entire night dealing with a pounding head, and no painkiller would relieve it. I kept feeling like I was going to throw up, and even drinking Pepto Bismol did nothing. I stayed in bed from Saturday night until 1 AM on Monday, and the only reason I got out of bed was to go to work; I didn't eat anything, just stayed in bed day and night, and then I had to be at work well before dawn on Monday.

Because I'm an essential worker, I had to go to work, and if I called in (not sure if I qualify for a sick day since I'm a part-timer and a certain amount of hours have to be racked up), there would be no one to cover for me at that hour. Maybe one of the bosses would've been able to come in and do my job, but that would be unfair to them, not only because I have the lowest job in the place, but they already do a million things. I had to drag myself into the shower and regular clothes, and I felt horrible. My body was exhausted from fighting the effects of the vaccine for a couple of days, my head was totally pounding and felt like it was going to explode, and I hadn't eaten anything in more than 24 hours. I managed to get to work by 2:30 AM, and I thought being busy there would make me feel better, but I just struggled to make it through. I still ate nothing and my headache was a bit better, but I felt gross and very tired. I felt consistently nauseated and achy and I really shouldn't have been there, but technically I wasn't sick, just having a strong reaction to the vaccine.

As soon as I was done with work I rushed home, got into bed, and slept. Then, suddenly, the headache and nausea were gone by the afternoon. I finally ate something and took no more painkillers (which had been useless anyway). But for the next couple of days, I didn't want to eat much because I was afraid of the nausea returning, and I continued to have body aches. It might have been a combination of lying around so much and still being affected by the vaccine. Luckily, painkillers relieved the aches and I eventually got better. By the time I was finished at the gym on Wednesday, I felt hungry enough to eat a meal and the aches were gone.

Basically, I rarely get sick, and I have only called in sick once in over a decade of working at various jobs, so my track record has been good. Maybe that's also why I didn't call in--I wanted to maintain my good track record. And because I rarely get sick, I wasn't used to not feeling well; I thought the symptoms would continue, and I was sort of scared when it took a four days to feel totally normal again. I get the flu shot every year, and never have any side effects. I also never get the flu and rarely get colds. The one time I did get a severe cold was after my dad died, when my caretaking duties were over, and it was as if my body was telling me to drop the adrenaline and relax into illness.

A lot of people are doing whatever they want after getting both shots, but I'm still going to be careful because the pandemic isn't over, and I don't want the virus in my body, even though I have the means to fight it (as long as it works against the variants). Also, it's not clear if vaccinated people can still spread the virus, so I don't want to affect other folks. I'm glad I got it, but was surprised my reaction was so extreme.

p.s. My novel, Wicker Park Wishes, will be published by Eckhartz Press. Pre-order here.

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