I volunteered last week to administer Covid vaccinations for county. It was a day off for me but I stood there in the rain, screening folks and taking temperatures and watching as car after car drove by past me on their way to the Vaccine Party. We gave 2400 shots that Friday, mostly to those over 65. The partygoers were nervous, relieved, scared. I heard “I haven’t left the house in a year,” and “I’m terrified.” I saw worry in their eyes, heard the nervousness in their voices as they answered my questions, gave their answers. With each car that passed through, their eligibility verified, I understood so much better the toll of this epidemic. This wasn’t a party they had every thought they’d attend, but they were here and they had no choice. The alternative — no Vaccine Party — was much worse.
I spend most days caring for patients — some with Covid, some very sick. In my hospital we have enough PPE and we’re well-trained and supported. We’re burnt out, definitely, but we’re managing. For a year, the patient load has had moments that were unrelenting and moments where we almost felt we could see daylight. It’s our new normal, waves of cases followed by a bit of relief. We’ve come to find masks we like, grown accustomed to wearing them all day. I enjoy taking the stairs now, rather than the elevators, although at first this was just protection against too much exposure. Now it’s a benefit to my step count.
I volunteered at the vaccination clinic to give myself a day away from the “routine” of Covid. I wanted to see a different side: the true light at the end of the dark Covid tunnel that is vaccination. I wanted to be energized with hope, to be there firsthand as we turned the tide. “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm,” are the lyrics to one of my favorite Wilco songs. That morning, what I really needed was to give a shot in the arm. Honestly, it was a bit disappointing to learn my assignment that morning wouldn’t be giving shots but screening patients instead. I wanted to be the one administering that magic elixir, making a different with a needle and serum. I wanted to be the one giving shots, giving hope.
It turned out that screening patients was actually a better lift to my soul. I got to see those worried, relieved, anxious people drive up, hand me their proof of eligibility, get their temperature screened. I got to tell them, “Welcome to the Vaccine Party!” and I got to hear, “Thank you for being out here in the rain, for doing what you do!” I registered and witnessed, as they moved along, all the trauma this year has doled out to them, and all of us. The partygoers were on their way to a way out. They had waited so long, but that day was here.