Tuesday I found myself clicking onto a COVID-19 vaccine hub site and finding a window of times that were available for my vaccination to take place immediately.
At first the sign of availability was shocking after days of “no times available.” Must admit that I was starting to feel like a rejected freshman with no invites after the first round of rush parties. That feeling quickly transformed into such a giddy state, making me swoon at my keyboard taking in all the rows of time openings that Bridgerton’s Lady Whistledown would have simply adored to report.
But it was already 10:30 a.m. and time was a-wasting. Taking into account traffic hiccups, car breakdowns, etc., I clicked the 12:50 p.m. slot. It was mine if I completed the online paperwork before another snapped up the spot. Without hesitation I punched in my electronic John Hancock on all types of legal documents. Okay, honestly? At this point I would have agreed to diapering a porcupine to get scheduled. But time was ticking and I wanted to be part of the day’s plan.
After the final e-signature was made, I was greeted with a response that better than losing 20 pounds overnight. My appointment was confirmed.
Like a nervous deb preparing to execute the Texas dip, I sought advice from a veteran about what to expect and whether she had any tips. Immediately, I called such a person … let’s just call her “Mom Lee.” Only the week before she had undertaken the journey with some trepidation. Without hesitating, she willingly shared her experience, calming me down with such details as where to park and the protocol to expect. Mom showed her true colors warning me to park at a distance from the entrance to avoid the car dings from those arriving with walkers and wheelchairs that were prevalent. Shoot! I didn’t care if an 18-wheeler bashed my car at this point. But then I wasn’t Mom. She finished up laughing that the whole process would take less than half an hour.
To be careful I headed to the site an hour ahead of time with my hand warmers and my iPad just in case it would be a lengthy wait outside. After all, I was a baby boomer armed with long-ago memories of an all-night wait for tickets to the Beatles’ concert in the ’60s as well as a more recent challenge to earn a gold star on my drivers license in July 2019.
Like a hungry vulture, I circled the block and immediately found a parking spot. As it was only 12:35 I wondered if I would be reprimanded for being too early for my appointment. Would such diligence send me back to the time-out corner of the vaccine world? Bravely I decided to take a chance and headed to the entrance, where a masked Dallas policeman waved and, I think, smiled at me. What lay ahead? A metal detector? A frisking? No, nothing so upsetting.
There was a masked man who greeted me by raising his no-touch thermometer to my forehead. Did I pass the temperature test? He nodded and told me to walk straight ahead down a roped-off aisle where I would be given further instructions. At the end of the lane I discovered a long line of tables against a curtained wall with masked staffers with computers on one side interviewing people on the other side. A masked staffer started to apologize that I would have to wait until a spot opened up. Before she could get her words out, an opening appeared.
Now my fate lay in the hands of my masked interviewer Ana. She started off with easy questions, like asking my name and date of birth. There was a slight pause. Was I going to be sent back because I was a half hour early? As I started to apologize for my early-bird arrival, Ana said it was no problem. Then she looked up from her computer and thanked me for filling out all my paperwork online ahead of time. At this point I was feeling rather rather heady about my cool online talents. Didn’t last long.
With that Ana handed me a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card and a sticker saying “I got the Covid-19 Vaccine” before sending me down another roped-off path. There, staff guides directed me along the way. Must admit that it reminded me of the log-ride line at Six Flags … only the wait was so much briefer.
No sooner had I made the final turn in the maze than I discovered a long room with white curtained cubicles with numbered signs on either side. As I passed some closed and others opened with staffers waiting for patients. I thanked each one. From their reactions, it was obvious they were as happy as I was to be part of the process.
My destination was #13, where Helen’s relationship with me was brief but painless. I had only been the third person she had seen so far. She asked me for my Record Card and told me to take a seat and to take off my jacket. I was so proud that I had worn a short-sleeved Henley shirt as she swabbed my left arm. Looking at the syringes on the table, I saw the vial that held the magic elixir that would set me on a course releasing my vulnerability, my anxiety and my collection of masks.
Those thoughts were so great that I didn’t feel her insert the needle. All I could say was, “That’s it?” She laughed and put a bandage over my injection spot. Instead of a lollipop like I’d received when I got my first polio shot, Helen returned my card and told me that I was to go to the next step in the program — turn right out of the cubicle and then turn left into the Observation Room for a 15-minute wait.
That is where I discovered a large room with chairs socially distanced. Some were empty, some were filled.
Surely, they weren’t going to discover some hiccup in my paperwork or behavior that required taking the serum back from me? Being such a nervous Nellie, my fears arose. How would they take it back? Insert an IV and suck out the fluids?
Pretty soon it became obvious that this station was a 15-minute timeout to see if there were any negative reactions.
I found a chair on the back row and, like so many others, began checking out my cellphone. Texted Husband Unit with the message, “Done.” He responded quickly, “Do you think you’ll be up to making dinner?” Just like a man.
Then I checked out the Record Card. Little did I know that between Ana and Helen I had been assigned a patient number that looked longer than my Social Security number. It also listed my first dose’s lot number and the date and location where it had taken place. I was to bring it with me upon my return for required dose number two in the weeks ahead.
As “guests” left after their 15-minute wait, a staffer swooped over and sanitized the chair.
When my time period was up, I walked out of the building with a new sense of relief. The process had truly been painless, speedy and a gift of peace of mind. The worst part had been just waiting to get a chance to be on the road of prevention.
As I headed home to make dinner with no dings in my car, I had a surge of relief. Yes, yesterday was a big day when our country passed the 400,000 mark in deaths resulting from the disease. But thanks to the resources, research and resilience of the healthcare workers, scientists and countless others who have been on the front lines defending, caring and providing a vaccine, the end of the pandemic is in the offing.
*Photo credit: Skeeter Hagler