SAN DIEGO — Today was a great day.
For 10 months, my family and I have been so worried about bringing the virus home to my mom Lucy. She’s 82-years-old, has Alzheimer’s Disease and a history of heart disease. Though she eats healthy, loves to walk for exercise and is petite, she had a quadruple bypass eight years ago. She is pretty spunky and has a lot of life to live, though, so we have been counting down the days until she could get the COVID vaccine.
On Monday, when San Diego County health officials announced they were opening up the county’s vaccination sites to senior citizens age 75 and older, I was so excited. I immediately went to the website www.vaccinationsuperstationsd.com and made an appointment for my mom for today, Tuesday, 1/19/20 at 9:45 a.m.
As I input her information, I was crying happy tears knowing my mom would soon have some protection in her little body from this terrible virus that has killed 400,000 Americans and has left countless family members broken and in deep grief.
As excited as I was, however, I woke up Tuesday morning after a restless night of sleep, feeling very nervous about potential side effects. As an only child and my mother’s primary caregiver - and with my mom unable to make sound decisions on her own due to her Alzheimer’s Disease - I felt the burden of having to make this decision on my own. We got in the car, however, and in my heart, I felt this was the right thing to do for my mom and our family.
On the drive downtown, my mom started asking a lot of questions and I could tell she was apprehensive and concerned. “Is it safe?,” she asked. “Am I going to die from the shot?,” she asked. I told her we had gotten the green light from her doctor who assured us that she should absolutely get the vaccine. When we pulled into the Vaccination Super Station near Petco Park and she saw the other cars lined up, she felt more comfortable and then thanked me for bringing her there.
My husband drove us down to the site, which is located at 1235 K. Street in downtown San Diego. The email confirmation told us to enter at the corner of K Street and 13th street. (There are some trolley tracks and one-way streets, so if you have a loved one who is 75+ and is planning to get a shot, you might want to consider else driving them if you feel that is a safe option, in terms of exposure to others. My mom lives with us, so we are all in the same household.)
I was very impressed by how streamlined and organized it was. There was no wait. (Maybe this is because we had an appointment early in the day, so I can’t guarantee there won’t be a line, but there wasn’t for us.) We stopped at a check-in point, showed them my mom’s identification, and were then directed to pull into a row underneath one of the tents. We all wore masks, and we rolled down my mom’s window, where we were greeted by an extremely kind UCSD Health nurse. She verified my mom’s information at a rolling computer/lab station that she wheeled around to my mom’s side of the car. She asked my mom a few questions, including if she’s ever had an anaphylactic reaction before (no, she hasn’t) and then the nurse administered the shot.
My mom said she didn’t even feel "the poke," as she described it, and was very happy and thankful. (There are signs that say “no video” so I turned off my video camera. I did ask the nurse for permission to take a photo of only my mom as she got her shot, and the nurse said “of course!”)
During the process, my mom began chatting away with the nurse and we learned she was working on her day off. She said she works in critical care and volunteered to work on her weekend to help with the vaccinations. She told us most people giving shots were volunteering their time. I did not know this, and my family and I thanked her profusely and felt so grateful for all the healthcare providers who continue to go above and beyond to provide excellent care.
We waited, along with the group of cars behind us, to see if my mom would have any allergic reaction to the vaccine. During that time, we were asked to scan a QR code and register my mom with v-safe, an after vaccination health checker. (vsafe.cdc.gov). I registered my mom and she is supposed to get daily health checks so that any potential symptoms or side effects can be tracked.
Nurses periodically walked by, asking with a “thumbs up” sign if my mom was doing okay. We replied through the car window with a thumbs up. My mom said she felt absolutely nothing out of the norm. After about 20 minutes, we were given the “all clear”, and they released our whole row of cars.
When I got home, my mom was hungry, so we fed her some lunch. A doctor advised us to give my mom some Tylenol just in case, as pain at the injection site and sometimes a fever are side effects, so we did give her one tablet. I just went into her room peek on her and she is napping.
And here’s something I was not told to do, but something everyone should do! I logged onto her UCSD Health portal, which you create after you sign up for a vaccine appointment if you’re not already a UCSD Health patient. (They send you a unique activation code in your confirmation email.) I clicked on “Make an Appointment” and was surprised that I was already able to schedule her second dose, exactly 4 weeks from today. Don’t forget to do this!
My final thoughts - I feel relief and gratitude, knowing my mom has received the first of two doses to help her body fight the coronavirus should she ever be exposed. My family and I are as careful as we can be, but with cases surging, deaths rising, and the new variants seemingly more contagious, I have been so worried about my mom’s health and fate in recent weeks. We will continue to be vigilant with social distancing and mask-wearing, but knowing that millions of people are now receiving the vaccine, I feel like there is hope on the horizon. I realize there are people who don’t believe the vaccine is the right choice for them, but at least this option is now available to those in our most at-risk population if they choose to receive it.