Get In Line

I don’t think I need special treatment as a person with an incurable illness. I mean, if a law was passed to allow anyone with an autoimmune disease to cut the lines at Disney World, I would ride Space Mountain until I puked, but I wouldn’t demand that law be passed in the first place. We don’t require special treatment, we just have different needs.

Gimme it

When the CDC, the state, and local government all declare that I have a serious need for a vaccine before the general population, I am in full agreement. I shouldn’t get it before frontline workers, nursing home residents, or educators because I can still stay home and avoid risk where they can’t, but should I get the shot before the mostly healthy public? The Most Honorable Dr. Fauci says yes. Should I get it before anyone who ever had a mask tantrum in a store, downplayed the pandemic, accused the media of exaggerating, compared it to the flu, or suggested coverage of the death toll would cease once the election was over? ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY.

I have been a mole person for a year. One whole year of staying in my house with the exception of drive though pickups of school supplies and the occasional Happy Meal run. Once I went to the post office to mail Christmas presents and I had to wear a mask, a face shield and gloves and then strip down and shower when I got home. I’m not (just) a hypochondriac. My autoimmune disease has supercharged my immune system to the point that my body is trying to murder it’s own organs. Similar to the way a transplant patient’s body might reject a donated organ, my body is burning holes through my digestive tract to try and get rid of it. Unfortunately, I need my digestive tract, so I have to take drugs that will get my immune system to chill the fuck out.

Usually, this means I’m more likely to get a cold and it’ll take me longer to kick it. We all get flu shots every year to protect the kids but also to protect me, since I’m a bit weaker in my response. In the months before the pandemic I had several health concerns that were chalked up to my bum immune system. You know when you get a sore throat and your lymph nodes in your neck swell up? I have one node in particular that is always on high alert. One of the possible side effects of my medication is lymphoma, so the node also puts my doctors on high alert, and I ended up getting it biopsied just in case. Zero out of five stars. Do not recommend. “Immune compromised” is hard for the kids to understand, so we explained that Mommy doesn’t have a natural shield to protect her from germs the way most people do, so we have to be careful and stay home until we can get vaccinated.

El Paso made it to the big time in the fall when we had a surge that made international news, and because we were such a hot mess we got vaccines fairly quickly when they became available. Our health department said, “don’t worry guys, we got this,” and let everyone register online to get a shot. They forgot to ask for personal information, so it was just a list of hundreds of thousands of people’s names and phone numbers. They made such a hash of it the responsibility was transferred to another more competent department that set up the registry all over again and managed to include questions about qualifying for specific phases of vaccine rollout — do you have a chronic illness that raises your risk? Are you a frontline worker?

I was number 109,000 despite qualifying for a priority group. I have been on that list for months. I’ve watched other states and even other cities in Texas plow through their priority groups and expand vaccination to more people while I waited for a call. Then one of our hospitals started registering people for shots, but decided it would be more fun to have folks sign up for a life-saving vaccine in the same way we buy Beyoncé tickets and PlayStations. You have to see the alert on Twitter from the hospital saying registration is open for a couple thousand shots, race to the site and refresh until the site crashes, then refresh some more until you can see if there are any spots left. The first several weeks I couldn’t even get the page for my priority group registration to load after almost an hour of refreshing and reloading.

Getting the vaccine is not a get-out-of-lockdown pass, and we’ll still be wearing masks for a long time. The shots drastically reduce the possibility of complications should you catch COVID-19, which you can still catch even though you’ve had your shot. So if Grandma gets vaccinated and resumes her social life, she still shouldn’t visit until you are also vaccinated because she could pick up some ‘rona at bingo and bring it home to you along with her famous casserole. The vaccine gives us peace of mind. We don’t want to spread COVID around so it’s still important to try not to expose yourself to the virus because you carry it and infect other vulnerable people. But at least I can worry a little less about my kids growing up without me.

I want that shot more than I wanted shots at the bar in college. If anyone has a few extra drops in their vial, call me up I’ll be there in five. No time to shoot it in my arm? Not a problem I’ll just run past and you can squirt it in my mouth. Give me a little dribble to rub on my gums. I’ll take it however I can. My kids are sick of being in this house and so am I. My husband has been doing virtual court for a year because my doctor wrote a note explaining the risks to Robby’s boss should there be an outbreak in the office. Robby works for the federal government and was able to get vaccinated by the VA over a month ago, but still I wait. Cabin fever doesn’t even begin to describe what is happening over here.

A few days ago I finally refreshed at the exact right time and got through to put my name on the hospital’s vaccine list for the next couple weeks. Have you ever seen a person who used to have a crippling fear of needles do a happy dance because she has a glimmer of hope she’ll get a shot? It’s a scene, man. Arms and legs flailing, happy tears running down my face, and my kids who have been frequently questioning my mental stability over the past months looking on with amusement and just a touch of horror. I’ll keep dancing anyway every time someone I know is protected, at least to some degree, from this virus.

Over the last year it’s seemed as though things were constantly getting worse instead of better. First it was no big deal, then we found out that was a lie, and months later we found out the person who said it knew it was a lie. We watched people who otherwise claim to care about their common man refuse to wear a mask to protect the vulnerable people around them. The internet trolls, some in high places, vomited misinformation on top of lies on top of political hail Mary’s to try and bend the facts to their will, but facts do not require your approval. Facts are Facts, and I’ll take a risk on new science over fake internet bilge any day. Of course there are unknowns with a new vaccine, but we have also been vaccinating people since the first small pox variolation in the year 1000. We’re better at it now than we’ve ever been before. We’re not great at actually distributing the vaccines in my city, but the shots themselves have vastly improved.

And also, if you think Bill Gates is inserting a tracker into your arm, you are greatly overestimating our interest in recording your everyday habits. Besides, he doesn’t need the vaccine to track you. He’s tracking your phone!

*If you’re reading this soon after posting, I’m getting my first vaccine right now! And I’m doing my happy dance, of course.

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