Long story…short message.
A few weeks ago, my EC and I were traveling in Utah doing the Grandparent Thing, and loving it. Our ever-thoughtful Bonus Son texted us with info about the Covid vaccine in Utah. (We had not received ours yet because we were farther down the list and, Arizona.)
Turns out that there were a few locations who would be giving shots the next weekend in Southern Utah to anybody that would show up – didn’t matter your age, or what state your are from. So, we rearranged our schedules and headed south.
After staying the night with our daughter in Monticello, we headed off to Montezuma Creek, in the 4-Corners area of Utah, and part of the Navajo nation. It was a lovely morning as we sat in line in our car for two hours talking, and listening to music. Nice.
While in line, we called the clinic and registered. Our turn finally came and we signed forms, received instructions and got our injections. It was fun to watch that the LDS missionaries were heavily involved in the process or directing traffic and helping.
After the injection, one of the elders wrote what time it was, and what time it would be in 15 minutes with a grease pencil on our windshield. We were then directed to the parking lot where we were to wait for any “adverse reactions” to the injection. After 15 minutes, we were feeling good. They asked us some questions and sent us on our way. Five hours, and we’d be home.
For those unfamiliar with NE Arizona, it can vary wildly from some of the most beautiful, dramatic landscapes on earth, to some of the most boring desolate desert on earth. It was in the latter area that the story got interesting.
We were about 45 minutes out from Montezuma Creek and an hour post-vaccine that things started going wrong. First, my eyes started going in and out of focus, both close and distance. Then my scalp started to itch, then the palms of my hands. I recognized the feeling
Backstory: When I was a teenager, I had pretty severe allergic reactions. Every so often I would itch, swell and have difficulty breathing that would require me to go to the E.R. and get an epinephrine injection. Scary stuff. It hadn’t happened since I was young, but I remembered the sensations.
I pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and put the car in park.
“Honey, I think we have a problem.”
“I can’t see the road. My eyes are going in and out of focus and it’s scaring me. And I’m starting to itch all over.”
Chrissie, having had similar instances in her life immediately understood what was happening: I was having an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine.
And then my neck and throat began to swell and feel tight. My voice started changing, and my airflow began to constrict.
I was at the beginning of a full-blown anaphylactic response – and we were literally out in the middle of nowhere. I glanced at my cellphone to see zero bars. Of course.
Then the thought crossed my mind: “Is this it? Is this where I check out? On the side of a highway on the middle of the desert, an hour away from anything?”
Of course, I didn’t share that part with Chrissie, but I know she was thinking the same thing.
Chrissie, being Chrissie, was prepared. She dug an Albuterol inhaler out of her bag along with a bunch of Benadryl. I took several puffs from the inhaler and a couple pills We traded places and she started driving, because sitting there on the side of the highway seemed futile. Yes, we were both scared.
The symptoms got stronger as we drove, and I was feeling worse. I sat in the passenger seat and tried to find calm and not think terrifying thoughts of “What if?” Thankfully, the meds started kicking in before we reached the town of Kayenta. We stopped in a parking lot across the street from the medical center and waited – reluctant to go into a medical center on the reservation mired in COVID, and unlikely to even see me or take my insurance.
After some time we decided to get back on the road and aim for Flagstaff. By this time, I was feeling quite a bit better. We stopped again in Flagstaff, ate and waited. Eventually, we set out for the last leg of our journey.
We arrived home later that evening – our five hour trip took 11 hours.
As we pulled into the driveway, a song came on that begins with the lyric:
Today was a good day
Yeah, we made it out alive
Such a good day…
Of course I got all weepy cuz I’m like that. We were thankful and relieved that we made it. I was thankful and relieved that I was alive.
It turns out that anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine are rare, and usually happen within the first 15 minutes. I was just slow to react. Even so, we are signed up to get out second shot next week locally. We are going to take all precautions and give it another go. Yes, I’ll take the risk. It is worth it to me. (I am pro-vaccine.)
While my allergic reaction very real, it was also relatively minor, controllable, and the serious aspects resolved quickly. In my defense, I didn’t know at the time that they would. My fear was based on the immediate worst-case-scenario, a place where I don’t like to dwell.
Most of us do not have the faintest idea as to when we will check out of this mortal existence. For some, it is a long, expected process, for others it is a sudden moment that they we never see coming. Either way, our time is finite here on earth.
My thoughts always turn to Shakespeare’s Hamlet where he delves into the idea as to when our time might be at hand:
“There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.” (link)
I’m sure most all of you have had experiences where you have asked yourself, “Is this where I check out?” (I’d love to hear about them.) A good scare can be a positive thing if it leads to reassessment, refocus, and renewed effort. Will it stick? I don’t know, but I do know I am grateful to be around to keep loving and living this thing we call mortality.
The readiness is all…