An Insurance Card Kind of Holiday

Since I live overseas, whenever I travel back to Florida to visit my family (don’t worry, they’ll be featured here some), all I want to do is spend time with them. I want to get up, do things with them, hang out, go to good restaurants, maybe a trip to the Magic Kingdom if it’s during my winter holidays. Usually, though, I am stuck (for lack of a better word) with obligations and can’t always spend every minute with my dear mummy (yes, I call her mummy or mum; no, I’m not British)...there’s doctor appointments, errands, friends I need to meet up with, people to see.

But thanks to getting my two doses of another COVID vaccine (I was fully vaccinated with Sinopharm, without any issues, back in December 2020), I feel as though I should thank Pfizer for giving me four weeks at home, where I had to stay pretty much at home. Allow me to explain.

The country I currently reside in recently started offering boosters of Sinopharm and Pfizer to those of us who had been fully vaccinated more than six months ago. That meant me. Instead of jumping through the hoops of trying to get it in Abu Dhabi or Dubai while also in the process of moving and packing for my trip home, I decided to schedule my first dose for the morning after arriving in Tampa. I was excited. I was ready. I was a vaccine professional. I waltzed into Walgreens that morning, rolled up my sleeve, and said, “Jab me.” The head pharmacist was wonderful; the actual jabber took her job seriously and jammed that needle into my arm. A couple of days later, the site became red, swollen, and itchy, but I decided it must have been a normal reaction.

Apparently, this was not, and by day nine, I was starting to feel the burn. Literally. The area around the injection site was growing redder, hotter, and larger by the day; I know it was larger each day because I used my bird tattoo as a the time the head of the bird was swollen, I knew it was time. Blisters were starting to form on the outskirts of the area. Reluctantly, I agreed to go to the Urgent Care clinic near our house. I walked in, rolled up my sleeve, and said, “I think I need to see a doctor.” The receptionist took one look and said, “I think you need to go to the Emergency Room.” I sighed. I hated the ER. I had last been in an ER two years prior after fainting during an experimental eye treatment that was basically a warm eyelid massage; I was not going back. Luckily, there is a freestanding emergency room down the street, so I went there. The nurse checking me in had to check whether or not they could see me. I was fortunate. They took me to an exam room for the doctor to take a closer look at my arm. After a minute, she decided it must be a bacterial infection; bacteria probably got into my body either on the needle or somehow in the actual injection site. I was given three prescriptions: two antibiotics and one antihistamine. For about the eight days I was on the antihistamine (three times a day), I really couldn’t do much due to the drowsiness, so I was able to stay home a lot and catch up on the Escape to the Chateau series.

I thought I was on the mend when two days after completing the antihistamine (still on the two antibiotics), I broke out in the most painful hives ever. All I could do was lay there on my bed and imagine I was bathing in a tub full of calamine lotion. Within hours, the hives spread all over my torso--front and back. It was not a look I was happy with. By this time, it was Sunday night, most Urgent Care facilities had closed, but I found an express walk-in clinic that was open for another two hours; I was determined to not return to the ER. I waited for an hour and a half, in my car, in Florida weather, waiting to be seen. After seeing the doctor, it was determined that I was probably allergic to one of the medications but not sure which one. So, I had to stop taking both, but was told to take over the counter antihistamines to help.

By the time my second dose appointment rolled around, I had been on medication for half of the time; I’d only been home for three weeks at this point and most of it had been recovering. I also decided to go to another pharmacy to take the second dose since I was still under the impression this had all been caused Nurse Jamming-Jab. Both doctors I had seen by this point said I could get the second dose, but to get it in the opposite arm. I arrived for the second dose, sat in the chair, rolled up my opposite arm’s sleeve, and asked the nurse to swab my entire upper arm with alcohol to prevent another mishap. She did and she gently gave me the vaccine. I was happy...until…

Two days after the second jab, I noticed my arm starting to get red, swollen, and hot...just like the first time. I did not wait for day nine this time. In fact, I decided to go back to the same emergency room since they had a record already. This time, I saw a different doctor. I told her the WHOLE LONG STORY, from dose one to this dose. She called it COVID Arm. Apparently it’s a thing. She said I am allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the vaccine, and in time that it will go away. I was not impressed, but accepted this. I asked for another prescription of the good antihistamine and she gave it to me.

I have since gone back to Walgreens to apologize to the head pharmacist in person for accusing Walgreens of giving me a bacterial infection. I am not angry with Pfizer. I am grateful for all the doctors and medical professionals who saw me during my trip home.

To this day, almost three weeks after the second dose, both arms will still itch on occasion and I’m having to take a daily antihistamine. But, both my arms are back to their usual flabby selves and aren’t bright red, so I’ll take it.

Overall, I want to give thanks to Pfizer for this allergic reaction, though I’ll have to take medication with me if I get another dose of it in the future, for giving me a true summer holiday--almost all four weeks of it--at home, in the comfort of our house, with my mum close by.

My final thought about this, though: It says a lot about my summer when my health insurance card is used more than my credit card!

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If you know me, you know I’m not generally a super political person–I try never to say anything political. I usually won’t say negative things about any country if there’s a device anywhere around me.