No Holds Barred: Vax Lax!

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Been-there-done-that — Vincent van Gogh's Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves, 1889. Courtesy of National Gallery of Art

The other day I thought of three-year term NYC Mayor Ed Koch — my absolute favorite politician (I can’t imagine saying that about ANYONE today). Remember him?  So charming, affable, funny, available, beloved and known for his ‘brand’ slogan “How am I doing?” I asked that same question of myself on this one-year anniversary of my family quarantine — my mom and I along with two household staff going into a 12-day quarantine all together after having been “potentially exposed” by a caregiver.

A lot has happened!

Aside from everyone looking like they have aged 100 years, that long ago quarantine was endless and fearful.  Those were the days without masks or quick Covid testing, let alone vaccines.  All we did was take our temperature twice a day, wash our hands and clothes hourly, check to see if we could still smell and taste, wore gloves, washed down every delivered box, envelope or bag of food, double-rinse all vegetables, and nauseated ourselves with Zicam zinc tablets.

The Sabol Quarantine crew: Mirella, Audrey, Sunshine, Blair, and Patrick.

We consumed ourselves with whether our dog Sunshine was a potential spreader and spent a fortune on sanitizers and toilet paper, and even made our own kitchen wipes from baby wipes and Grey Goose vodka. Amazon was our only outside source.  When we finally heard our “exposer” was clear, so were we, but we remained even more fearful.  We were inducted like everyone else into the Covid era of anxiety and isolation.

NOW… we have museums in Albuquerque and Miami ready to open with shows on pandemic memorabilia — like Covid and grim reaper piñatas, art made of Pfizer vaccine vials, the infamous blue gloves, surgical gowns and of course, THE MASKS!  Art in the time of peril.

Remember when?!

I would say the greatest innovational stars of Covid have been all the medical personnel — the rapid Covid testing, of course the vaccines, all the tele-doctoring, and the daily press releases of science and data.  The fact is that we all know what “long haul” symptoms are: brain fog, constant body aches, fatigue and rapid heartbeat (all of which I have without even having Covid). We are now aware that “inflammation” and “dehydration” are the physical culprits of the day.

Even masks have gone from fashion and glitz (made by everyone’s bored grandchildren while on school furlough at home) to Amazon’s “best seller” 20-pack of KN95 masks — the breathable beekers that tightly cover your chin and cheeks. Bandanas and “gators” are gone or strictly for the landscapers and others who are outside most of the time.  Personally, I can’t tolerate a mask for longer than 40 minutes; and forget double masking.  This is not political; I just can’t breathe, and no one likes a mask.  So clearly my days of taking a 4/5-hour flight anywhere are gone for the foreseeable future.  I can barely stand a mini 20-minute manicure.  BUT I’M NOT COMPLAINING!

Lately my social life has been about going to the fun mega-vaccine site appointments with festive tents in huge parking lots, stadiums, and school yards.  They feel like flea markets or rock concerts with boom boxes blaring the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive.” My first Pfizer shot looked like an episode from “Glee.” All the nurses, volunteers, and National Guard were young, excited, and thrilled to see you and thanked you at check-in “for taking a part in history.” No wonder so many people broke down sobbing in their cars from a sense of joy and relief.  There were banners marking how many vaccines were given that day (12,000) not to mention the signage saying “drive slow — you’re almost there,” which meant so much to those who struggled so hard to get an appointment.

Opening banner at vac site.
Welcoming banners.
One of the “meaningful” directions for those of us longing for the vaccine!

Everyone seemed to be dancing around as if Susan Stroman had choreographed to do high kicks holding syringes and wearing the white smocks and all those “jazz hands” in blue latex gloves.  There is a Covid musical waiting to happen!  It undoubtedly helped that it was 72 degrees and sunny in Scottsdale, and the site is adjacent to Arizona State University, a sure-fire resource for young happy volunteers!

I realize other vax sites are completely different.  Some resemble refugee camps in cold dark gymnasiums, snow swept defunct airstrips and dried out fields (very “Nomadland”) or in empty stadiums with endless lineups of wheelchairs and walkers and exhausted bundled up determined masked people. Each state has its own vaccine “look” and experience. For better or worse. That is our America at the moment.

Backstage at the vac site — doctors and nurses take a break from 24/7 vaccinations.
Vac site volunteers getting final orders. They also get a free shot.

Either way, everyone is excited in reporting their vax experience.  After all, this is our current form of going to the theatre.  We are standing or driving-through with others witnessing THE showstopper of our time — starring us!  The expediency everywhere has earned the vax sites (hospitals and pharmacies as well) 5 stars in every state!

Although I have learned first-hand that not every “jabber” is a star.  Many are great nurses, National Guard, medics, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants. But some just don’t know the “art” of giving a good shot. My first vax nurse knew to pinch the skin high on the arm — thus limited soreness. My 2nd vax was rushed and aggravated since her first syringe had no needle. She got hassled and whipped out the next one and slammed it into my upper arm. No pinch, no hold, poorly positioned.  I immediately felt the pain go down my fingers. She told me to get a heating pad for it. And I fled to the final check-out tent to get my all-important vax card stamped.  I felt like I had “graduated” the Covid vax experience and ironically it was on my birthday!

PAINFUL vac 2 birthday shot. Note: “Inoculator” didn’t properly pinch upper arm skin, marking the beginning of a “whopper” 12-hour reaction!
Final “holding” tents to make sure you survived the shot!
Gift of a sanitation pen after vac 2.

So much for having lit my birthday candle. I was soon to be one of those vax recipients who in 12 hours got the “Dr. Fauci flat-on-my-ass” (his description of his Moderna 2nd dose) reaction. At 3 AM I got a crash-and-burn headache that wouldn’t stop.  Then came the chills, body aches (from my hair to my toenails) and all my past injury sites chimed in as well. AND a racing heartbeat. It lasted for six hours (some get it for an hour, some get it for a day) and required Tylenol and Advil alternating every three hours, in addition to a great hot bath that instantly drained out all the symptoms.

Birthday recovery from vac 2 “LSD trip.”

It vaguely felt like a bad LSD trip and I knew at the end I was grateful for just 12 hours as opposed to struggling for my life on a ventilator. The next morning, I felt like I had taken the best quaalude (I miss that drug).  I had slept for eight hours and awoke FREE of that year-long feeling of constant anxiety!  Let’s hope that feeling lasts.

I now hear that vaccine technology is about to take the forefront with nasal sprays, implants, patches and sublingual tablets.  Maybe no more sore arm jabs!

Along with the amazing medical innovations are the changes coming in professional homecare.  More people will be choosing to stay home in their aging years and will need skilled at-home help.  Now homecare services will be better vetted and accredited.  So, no more out of work strippers coming in dressed as nurses to give you a bath or shower.  Homecare is about to become a big business as nursing homes begin to fade.

So, if Covid can give us all these new features along with better health insurance — then I suppose we have to thank the pandemic for getting us better off in the end. Not to mention the emphasis now on being in better health.

Our nation has always had a giant obesity problem and Covid brought that front and center. We all learned how vulnerable we are if we let our bodies go. Lung, kidney, and heart disease along with diabetes are not called “the deadly quartet” for nothing.  There are currently more best sellers on aging, dementia, and dying than ever before. And this is NOT about fasting three times a week on kale juice, or running marathons, or spinning twice a day.  We have discovered how responsible we all must be in our wellness, with or without vaccines.

Readying to vaccinate my Covid piñata.

As for the current fad of people getting the vax and becoming lax and running about mask-less and unprotected?  I leave you with a description of the Chinese New Year we have just entered — the year of the Ox. Covid was the year of the Rat. The Ox appears as a powerful animal who can transform the negative effects of the Rat’s 2020. According to I Ching writer Dale Bruder, “The Ox is a builder and needs to reconstruct the damage of the Rat. Avoid the urge to run ahead (that is for the Tiger in 2022), instead rebuild and repair and stay in place — slow and steady.  Diligence is called for, not rushing about.  Do the work that needs to be done — lay new foundations. Eliminate wasted energy, opinions, unnecessary accumulations and people.  Stop your monkey mind and become methodical.  The Ox’s rhythm is slow, steady, straight and includes rest and nourishment.  This is not the time to burn out.”

We have all been burned out — to a crisp.  So, let’s get Ox’ed Up instead of Vax Lax!

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