Thursday night I received my second Covid vaccine. That makes me part of less than 15% of the entire U.S. population, a cohort I feel very fortunate in which to belong.
Joining that club wasn’t easy – scoring an appointment wasn’t without challenge and the initiation came with some real negative consequences. While I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from receiving the immunization, you should prepare yourself for some unpleasant side effects.
My own experiences may have been extreme because of my history of not doing well with vaccines. A flu shot in 1992 knocked me on my ass for 3 days, causing me to be resistant to ever receiving another one. But, since the Covid vaccine just might be my ticket to travel, I rolled up my sleeve and took it fully knowing that I might not feel great afterwards.
Unlike the first stab four weeks ago, my arm wasn’t terribly sore. The woman who administered the injection did so with such finesse that I was skeptical that I had even received it – nicely done, wonderful volunteer. I went to bed that night completely comfortable, trying not to imagine negative symptoms psychosomatically. I was fine.
At about 4:00 a.m. I woke up feeling nauseous. As someone who spent many a childhood night sleeping on the cold tile of a bathroom floor due to my tendency to be a puker, I could predict where this was going. It was not going to be a good day. By 5:30 I knew that I wasn’t going to make it in to work and I activated my sub plans, communicated with administration and emailed my students to notify them of the day’s lesson. I fell back asleep.
For the next ten hours I was absolutely miserable. The nausea persisted but it wasn’t from my stomach really. It felt more like a side effect of the excruciating headache from which I was suffering. I’ve had a few migraines in my life and this headache was the granddaddy of them all – it felt like forceps on my temples squeezing increasingly tighter. No joke, it was horrible. I found myself in tears lying in the bathroom completely crippled and unable to find relief.
I was hot, although my temperature never went above 98, and cold, despite the three layers of clothing I was wearing. Eating was absolutely out of the question, but I forced myself to drink small sips of water knowing that dehydration would only make things worse. I slept fitfully, never deeply enough to feel rested, but appreciative of the time not awake. Anything to escape that relentless headache was welcomed.
By the late afternoon, I was able to choke down a piece of toast and an orange followed by two Tylenol. I slept more and the next time when I awoke the headache was dialed back a bit. I brushed my teeth for the first time of the day. For a change of scenery, I moved to the living room and settled onto the couch where, in between naps, I watched a movie and far too many episodes of Househunters International.
I finally relocated back to my bed about 2:30. Amazingly, I fell back asleep for another couple of hours waking for the day a little after 5:00. I was relieved to be able to focus my eyes to read now that the pressure in my head had ebbed. I was hungry, but cautious about what to eat knowing that I needed to choose something light. Raisin Bran and a piece of toasted panettone did the trick.
It’s now 36+ hours since my injection and I’m feeling about 80% back to normal. A little weak, somewhat stiff after a day of laying around, but my head doesn’t hurt which feels like a wonderful gift. Almost as fantastic as the eventual opportunity to travel once again.
I hope you, too, are able to get vaccinated and that my experience is unlike what you encounter following immunization. I’m grateful for science and medicine and a dog who intuitively knows when I’m not well and provides awesome comfort. Bonus for the fact that Greece 2021 is, optimistically, looking just about as likely as my having a negative immunization response. To all of that, I’ll happily raise a glass of Assyrtiko. As soon as I am back to 100%, that is.