From other people’s stories, I’d known there was a good chance I’d get sick from my second shot, so I planned accordingly. I scheduled my week with a couple free days in which to recuperate, and the morning of, I washed my hair, shaved, and painted my toe nails. It’d been over a year since I’d last been sick and I wanted to look my best for my potential date with Misery.
The shot itself was a lovely, no stress affair, and all the rest of the day I felt great. On the way to the vaccine clinic, I’d stopped at a dollar store for ginger ale and crackers and now I worried I’d have a six-pack of ginger ale going flat in the pantry for the next year.
Around one in the morning — almost exactly ten hours from when I’d gotten the shot — I woke up with fevers and chills (a phrase which sounds almost cozy, like “berries and cream” or “milk and cookies,” but was anything but). I could feel the fever rising, the heat radiating out from my core, my teeth rattling.
Complicating matters, I’d tweaked my shoulder and neck getting dressed on Saturday (I know, I’m pathetic) and had been operating like a stiff, bent-over owl ever since. Now, my muscles rigid and sore from the fever, my shoulder and neck pain intensified. Finding a comfortable, restful position was impossible.
ALSO, my arm hurt like the dickens. I’d thought it’d been sore the first time around, but this time I was only able to move it mere inches without pain. All night I cradled my useless appendage against my body and worried that I was going to give myself a frozen shoulder from lack of use. (Because I am rational when sick.)
Even with a steady diet of Tylenol and ginger ale, the fever didn’t let up, and the next day when my older son informed me that I was overdosing on Tylenol (oops), I went cold turkey, and then when I talked to him again he said I’d misunderstood him and that it was fine to continue the Tylenol and that I could alternate it with Ibuprofen, too. Apparently, when I get a fever, I lose my hearing.
I also had a crushing headache and bone-weary fatigue. Just mustering the energy to go to the bathroom took ages.
“Over the next few days, you might experience mild side effects” is what it said in the follow-up email I got from the vaccination clinic.
Ha. Hahahahaha. Clearly someone does not understand the meaning of “mild.” Here, let me help.
Mild side effects are when you have a mysterious low grade headache and then a day later you remember that Oh yeah, I had a vaccine yesterday so that’s why I feel bad. BEING KNOCKED FLAT BY A RAGING FEVER FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, on the other hand, IS NOT MILD. It might be expected. It might be acceptable. But mild? No.
If I hadn’t known any better, I might’ve thought I’d been injected with an honest-to-goodness case of Covid.
(I still wondered….)
Sweet boy made me a breakfast that I declined (and he then ate).
In bed, miserable and aching, I marveled at the lengths I’d go for the sake of not getting sick with Covid, or not getting someone else sick. For the first time in this whole blasted pandemic, I felt like I was actually sacrificing for a greater cause.
It’s only gonna last twelve hours, I told myself (because that’s about how long it’d been for my older son). Soon it’ll be over.
But that evening I was still solidly miserable — I am not a pleasant sick person — and yet I knew I shouldn’t complain. Getting this vaccine was such a gift, and I was grateful beyond measure to get it.
(I still complained.)
I slept fairly well that night and by the next day I was much improved. My body temp still had trouble regulating itself for the first few hours (I kept on-and-off sweating), and my head hurt (but now the painkillers worked), and I moved slowly, but I was vertical!
I made coffee, glorious coffee, and drank it out on the deck, marveling at the warm weather and the birds and sunshine and how lovely it was to no longer feel like I was dying.
And then my brain exploded.
Suddenly I wanted to do all the things. I wanted to make something Italian and bake muffins and plan all the meals for the next week and also make all of them right now, and I wanted to get more house plants and paint a picture (huh?) and squeeze the calf out of Daisy so I could make creme fresh and yogurt and clotted cream and oh, I’d need scones to go with the cream and what about that blueberry muffin cake I just read about? and chicken meatballs! and am I actually out of frozen spinach? gotta write that down.
It was like I had a caffeine buzz times ten. Suddenly, I’d unleashed — or tapped into — a huge reserve of creativity and energy. (Was this what people felt like when they get high? I wondered. Because if so, I can understand the draw.) Are other people getting this vaccine buzz? Step one, get sick. Step two, get better. Step three, fly high.
Or maybe feeling like you can single-handedly take on the world is one of side effects?
Questions I Have
- Why do some people get sick from the vaccine and others don’t? My son theorizes that a stronger reaction means there’s a stronger immune system, but I don’t know if that’s true. (Oh wait — maybe?)
- Does the neanderthal gene have any effect on how a person handles the vaccine?
- Do people who have had Covid still have a reaction to the vaccine?
- And what about all the people who were Covid-positive but asymptomatic? Does that have any effect on their reaction to the vaccine?
Oh, hang on. I just found some science.
My husband had his second vaccine the day after me. He had a touch of a headache but otherwise felt fine, lucky dog.* My younger daughter gets her second vaccine next week, and my older daughter got her first vaccine this weekend. Soon, there might be a vaccine for my younger son.
One by one….
*I spoke too soon:
Thirty hours in, after working (albeit slower and slower and slower, according to my son) for 8 hours, Lucky Dog bites the dust.