My COVID-19 Vaccine Experience
The good, the bad, the evil, no, but in all seriousness, here is my honest real life experience in getting what is currently the most sought after vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine. As of February 26th, 2021, I am fully vaccinated. No, this doesn't make me special, however, it makes me feel a sense of relief and slightly safer, though I will continue to mask up and practice all the safety precautions advised until more people globally are able to be vaccinated. Myself, like most others, I imagine, look forward to the day when we can say things like "remember when" and the pandemic finally becomes a historical event from the past, that we happened to live through.
Vaccine Number 1
COVID-19 vaccine number one was received in January of 2021. It was a Friday, I received an email stating I was eligible and navigated to a sign up page. To my surprise, there were shots available, I had an instant rush of excitement, fear, and anxiety. I signed up for a slot later that day.
I drove up the long winding road to the vaccine location, I was in a row of cars, full of people anxiously awaiting their first dose. I felt instantly calmer after the first person checked my information and gave me directions of where to go and who I'd speak with next. Several times my information was verified, in order to make sure I got the correct vaccine, and that the medical staff was prepared should anything happen.
The provider discussed my answers to the questionnaire I had to fill out ahead of time, noting my history of medication interactions and anaphylaxis. Most people were asked to sit for 15 minutes post injection to ensure there were no side effects. As a person with a more complex medical history, I was asked if I minded staying an extra 15 minutes for observation. They told me, that if I started feeling anything or needed assistance to flash my lights and lay on the horn. Thankfully, I did not need to do so.
The medics continuously checked in, on myself and others. I reported tightness in my chest almost immediately. At the time, I had no other reactions or symptoms, it wasn't until three hours later when I went to get up, the pain radiating in my arm nearly knocked me off my feet. To be clear, I have a high tolerance for pain, this was like nothing I'd ever felt. I couldn't even lift my arm, that's how horrible the pain felt for me.
The day after, I felt hungover. I rarely drink, I HATE the feeling of being hungover. Head ache, achey, tired, nausea, oh, and the mind blowing arm pain. I was also struck with fatigue. Much of the day I rested as I struggled to do much else. I should note, I also struggled to keep food down for the first 24 or so hours.
By Sunday, I had a fever, chills, could barely stay awake, the headache was mind numbing, the arm pain, still just as bad as several hours after my initial injection. I mostly remember sleeping a lot, I was physically unable to keep my eyes open. I also struggled with my breathing during this time, which was the first onset symptom or reaction I experienced. By Monday I was drained, physically and mentally, however I pushed on and went to work. In hindsight, I should have taken the day and let my body fully recover, but I'm stubborn, and I hate missing work.
It tooks a few days for the fatigue and aches to pass, and a few weeks for my breathing to return to normal. I documented this via video and posts on my Instagram account (@Half.holistic.living) and received great support for both getting the vaccine, and sharing, openly, and honestly, my experience.
I remember the first call after my vaccine, my supportive boyfriend, he asked how I felt, I told him, "I don't know why, I feel proud, and also safer." He responded letting me know that I should be proud, and that he thought I was "a badass for getting it." That meant a lot to me. I felt proud that I could be a part of something bigger than me, help protect my friends, my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, my clients, and even strangers on the street.
As time passed between the first and second vaccine, I was able to witness thousands of others as they started their journey to being vaccinated from COVID-19. I also witnessed more loss, hitting closer to home as several of my peers lost a parent within just one week. Reminding me, life is valuable, we only have today, and that we can't be lax with COVID-19 just because there is a vaccine. Heading into the week of my second shot, that anxiety returned, however, as I said from day 1, even with a reaction to the first vaccine, I'd do it again over and over, this time is no different.
I was unable to plan ahead or know what to expect with the first, this time, I have planned and prepared ahead for anything. While I am optimistic that vaccine number 2 will not be as bad, I am also realistic and know how my body tends to react to things. I borrowed my favorite golf video game, I made sure that I got recommendations for television shows and movies in case I needed them, ginger ale, body armor waters, my best four legged friend, and took the day off. I plan on my normal morning routine, my workout to help me destress and work out the anxiety, and had already arranged to get myself lunch following the vaccine from one of my favorite celiac safe restaurants.
Vaccine Number 2
Friday morning I made sure to drink plenty of fluids, I got my workout in, and was then on my way to the vaccination site. I drove up the long road leading to the bus station that has been turned into a drive up vaccine station. I anticipated having to wait due to my experience with my first vaccine, however there were only a few cars in front of me. I didn't have much time for the anxiety to kick in before I was through the que and processed. I received my vaccine, and was okay after waiting, and they sent me on my way.
As I was driving home I started to get pains in my neck and head, I tried to brush it off thinking it was all in my head. I decided to get something to eat, as I knew I should fuel my body. I started to get quiet and was struggling to just sit up, so I went back home to rest. I napped for a while, and then it hit me. First, the headache and aches. Then the fever, the sweats, the chills, like a ton of bricks. My arm at the injection sight developed a lump, first like a golf ball, and bright red. I struggled to sleep, and eventually woke my family up who helped me get Benadryl and pain medication into my system and ice for my arm.
Saturday started rough, since Friday night poured into 1:30 am when I finally caved and asked for help. I managed to calm down and sleep on and off, but not well. I still had a fever when I woke, and the head ache and body pain. As the day went on, the lump on my arm almost tripled in size. The CDC sent the first survey to me, to track symptoms, I filled it in, honestly, however hadn't heard back. It is uncomfortable not knowing if and when I should have gotten it looked at, not knowing why my body was reacting and responding this way. I'm still grateful for the opportunity to get the vaccine.
Sunday my entire body was a rash, front side, back side, up my neck. I was ITCHY, I was uncomfortable, however, at the end of the day, I was fully vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus. I still had a fever which I nursed all day, and my arm was sore, with the red mass that had appeared. That night, I slept for over 8 hours, my body was recovering.
Monday morning I woke fatigued, sore, like you are when you recover from a flu. My arm was far less red, and the swelling had gone down significantly. I had some GI issues, nothing seemed to sit right. I believe it was my body fighting, detoxing, and reacting to the vaccine.
Tuesday I went to my office, not feeling well, but believing I could make it through the day. I was wrong, and that's okay. I ended up going home, and having an appointment with my doctor, who diagnosed delayed anaphylaxis, and put me on bed rest for the next several days. To be honest, from the day of the vaccine, through the following Thursday, I don't remember a lot. I slept more than I ever remember sleeping, I actually watched television more in a week than I had all year, and it's okay - my body was recovering.
Two weeks has gone by, I still feel more fatigued than normal, I still have a headache that I can't completely kick, and my breathing, like the first time, is not back to normal. I am a person with chronic illness, I am a healthcare worker, and I am vaccinated against COVID-19.
Overall experience, well, I got sick, twice. I reacted, or my body reacted, to something. It obviously triggered by body to fight, and at the end of the day, I'd still choose to get vaccinated, even after reacting to both the first and second vaccines. I'd rather six days of not feeling well versus being six feet under, any day.