The Road to Normalcy

Getting back to normalcy is what we are all looking forward to these days.  The pandemic has been life altering to everyone.

The vaccine is something we hope will get us back to some sort of normalcy and living the lives we want to freely.  No worries, just living life.  Ok, some worries, but nothing that would necessarily impact the people around us adversely.  

As a health care provider, a deemed essential worker, I am fortunate enough to be near the front of the line for the vaccine.

Admittedly, at first, I was hesitant in getting the vaccine.  Partly because, like many, I felt like it was rushed and we would be the guinea pigs.  The other part was feeling a little guilty.  I wasn’t a front line worker in the trenches of treating patients fighting COVID.  I was a secondary line of defense to help people avoid having to go to ERs, urgent care facilities, or going to their doctor’s office for their orthopedic issues.  It was to help take the strain off the frontline invasion.  

I was willing to wait a bit to let the frontline health care providers and workers get inoculated before I would get mine.  

However, my thought process quickly changed.  Despite all of my best efforts to stay safe and minimize my risks, someone (unknown to them at the time) informed me they had exposed me.  The encounter was brief in the face to face moment.   I had my mask on, I kept my distance, I washed my hands and wiped down all the surfaces.  Nonetheless, my heart sunk into my stomach.  Shit.  Thankfully, I don’t go anywhere, but still.  I had to inform the other member of my household to which I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it (he took it surprisingly well, but he, too, later confessed had the same stomach sinking feeling).

Following the CDC guidelines, I self quarantined and waited the obligatory time until it was ideal to test (5 days out from exposure).  My anxiety was a little high as mild paranoia set in.  Feeling my face and forehead, “Am I running a temperature?”  Use digital thermometer.  “97.8”  “is my throat scratchy?”  Use digital thermometer again.  “97.8”  Not that checking my temp was any litmus test of why my throat was a little scratchy.  Nonetheless, any sense of rationality starts to diminish.  The constant wondering if the virus has entered your system and waiting to emerge.  I scheduled my PCR test thru my PCP. The PCR test, the one where the Q tip is shoved up your nose to tickle your brain stem, is not something I care to do on a regular basis.  It felt like water had just got up my nose at the pool when the tester was done swabbing.  Tears well up in your eyes as the unpleasant stinging sensation dissipates over the course of 20 seconds.   

Just when you thought the quarantine was bad, waiting for the results further heightened the anxiety.  I still felt fine, energy good, temp normal, nothing was out of sorts aside from the anxiety.  24 hours later, “COVID PCR negative.”  Oh thank goodness!  The relief of the weight lifted felt like you won $5 on a scratch off ticket.  All was good except I was still in quarantine for another day or so.  Per CDC, I get out of jail after 7 days with a negative PCR test.  Ok, another day and half.  I got this.  

Once freed, my mind had changed about the vaccine.  How can I get the vaccine and where do I sign up?  I’m done with this crap.  I want my life back.  Granted, I was expressing the same thing about 2 months into the pandemic last year.  Now I was really feeling done, knowing that there was some sort of light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine out.

Knowing that ALL health care providers qualified, I began looking into the process.  The issue for me, I’m an independent, private practitioner with no hospital affiliations.  How in the world does a provider like myself get vaccinated?

I started hearing from other people in the same position about how to go about it.  I checked the website and there wasn’t a lot of information.  Was there some secret members only phone number?  After more checking, and a few days into the process.  I called one number, get another number.  I called that number, and failed to get to a live person.  Ok.  Time to play the game.

5 calls later and some extra time on my hands, I surprisingly got through.  The guy told me he needed to transfer me, but the hold time was longer than normal.  I was invested.  Ok.  So I waited.  And waited.  An hour and fifteen minutes later to my startled surprise, a nice lady answered the phone.  For the next 7-10 min she is going through the qualifying questionnaire with me.  She submitted my “application” and said I would get a response within 48 hrs.  20 minutes later, I received the email with my acceptance and a scheduling link.  At the click of a button, I was scheduled for my first shot 3 days later.  

I was eager and felt extremely lucky to have gotten through since I heard of others waiting on the phone for HOURS before they got a live person.  The county had yet to implement their online pre registration system.  This whole roll out was a learn as you go process for the county health departments.  

3 days later at my scheduled appointment, everything went as smooth as it could be.  After hearing nightmare stories from others who had been vaccinated a week earlier where they waited for HOURS in the parking lot WITH an appointment.  So to my surprise, my morning appointment was painless.  Everything was done thru text.  Check in via text.  Invitation to come in via text.  The organization of the vaccination process was as steamlined as an Ironman race check in process.  Go station to station, follow the arrows, answer a few questions with the vaccinator, get jabbed, go wait, check in for your holding time, receive text when your time is up.  From the moment I received my invitation to go in to when I walked out was less than 25 minutes.  Easy peasy.

Now the big thing everyone was talking about were the side effects.  My experience with the first shot (Moderna, BTW):

8 hours after the shot, arm got achy and sore

12 hours after, soreness increased to the point lifting my arm was impossible without a little help

Day 1, arm soreness was intense trying to reach overhead.

By day 3, little to no arm soreness and functioning fine.

Day 4, slight axillary lymph node soreness and swelling

Day 5, mild day 4 symptoms

Day 6, diminishing day 4 symptoms

Day 7, raised bumps and slight itchiness to the injection site

Day 8, full dermatological reaction (raised, red, swollen) covering my deltoid and itchiness to the injection site

Day 9, day 8 symptoms decreasing

Day 10, day 8 symptoms negligible

Then the drama was over with shot #1.  

4 weeks later, I scheduled my second shot.  The process was just as smooth as the first time.  

Here was my shot #2 experience (which apparently can be all over the map in severity, but seems everyone gets some sort of reaction):

3 hrs after the shot, arm started to get sore, but not as intensely as the first.  I could still reach overhead without assistance.

12 hrs after the shot, the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks.  It’s the I feel sick fatigue, but you aren’t sick.  Then the chills set in.  I resigned to going to bed early.  

After burying myself in my covers, a few hours later I was hot and wide awake, but tired.  Started getting chills again and fell back asleep.

Day 1, residual grogginess by morning, but feeling ok.  No temperature.  By the afternoon (36 hrs later), I felt fine.  Arm was sore and swollen but still functional.  Nothing like the first shot.  There was some itchiness as well.

Day 2-7, gradual reduction in soreness, swelling, and itchiness to the injection site and otherwise feeling good.  

So overall, nothing dramatic.  About 24 hrs worth of “excitement”, and then I was completely fine.  Most others I heard from had similar experiences.  A few developed mild fever and felt bad for 2-3 days.  

I wasn’t concerned of the side effects of the vaccine, but it was nice to have some idea of what to possibly expect.  For those of us who have been vaccinated, we share our experiences as if comparing notes.  Others who are still waiting, want to know more about what to expect taking comfort in those that went before them.  

Now that I’ve been vaccinated, I have some comfort that I will be ok if I should contract the virus (trust me, I don’t want anything to do with it).  Some of the unknowns are what we are navigating through right now.  My behavior and habits haven’t changed nor will they change for the foreseeable future.  Until we get the “all clear” from the CDC, our degree of normalcy is within reach, but not just yet.  If we can all do our part, we can get there.  

For those that are hesitant, you have to make an informed decision about what is best for your own health and others around you.  If you choose to defer, because you have history of adverse reactions, then yes, be cautious.  For those that are hesitant for other reasons, do so with factual information and please be considerate of those around you.  Please follow the recommended guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, so we can get back to normalcy sooner.  

Dr. Jamie So

Jamie So, PT, DPT, is the owner and physical therapist of Manual Therapy Effects.


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