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THOMPSON: Overwhelming sense of relief comes with COVID-19 vaccination

February 08, 2021 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


It was 10:30 A.M. last Tuesday - after more than 600 busy signals - that my telephone call finally rang through. The hours of uncompleted calls...the incessant beep, beep, beep...had almost lulled me into a trance...was it really ringing?

My heart sank when a recording started as I said, “Hello?”

“You have reached the Levy County Health Department...if you know your party’s extension please enter it now...or press one for a directory...” The message droned on. Finally, I heard, “If you’re calling to schedule an appointment...press four.”

I pressed four on my iPhone’s screen...hoping it was the correct extension though fearing I might be disconnected. The phone started ringing again...once, twice, three times. A woman’s voice...a real person...said, “Hello, Levy County Health Department, this is Lori.”

I asked if I could schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination for myself and my wife..unsure whether this was the right person...or if there were any vaccines left.

“Yes, you can,” said Lori.

I don’t know why, but we often think the worst in matters of life and death...and make no mistake COVID-19 is just that. Nearly 475,000 people have died in America alone...about 2.3 million people worldwide....just over 20,000 in Canada...all in just a year. I don’t know what inning of this deadly game we’re in...but the medical journals I read predict we have more dark days ahead of us than behind us.

I wanted to give Lori my telephone number in case the call somehow dropped...was I that desperate? If you live long enough, you’ll find yourself in one or more life and death situations...military service, dangerous occupations...life, in general. But the randomness of death by COVID-19 is scary...and you’re foolhardy or stupid to admit otherwise.

An insatiable reader, this past year I’ve learned about the lives of hundreds of people - men and women of every race...every age...around the world - who mysteriously died from COVID-19. If you died tomorrow, how many people would grieve your loss? One hundred...three hundred...a thousand?

The stories are heartbreaking...people who survived the Holocaust, wars, even airplane crashes...only to die from COVID-19. Rapists and murderers...heroes and champions...people of faith...atheists...both saints and sinners die from this pandemic that cuts across every demographic.

I call it mysterious...well, because it is. Young people with no underlying health issues...gone.

Older people...who contracted it...and live. People of colour...and the poor...predictably victims of the pandemic in higher proportion because these groups suffer the most in any catastrophe.

Some people - so-called “long-haulers” - suffer not only symptoms but debilitating and life-threatening ailments that drag on for months...even a year.

In my phone call, Lori quickly gathered the information she needed...name, age, address. Was this really happening? She said it would be a drive-through vaccination...arrive at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5...loose sleeve shirt. We would then drive to a parking lot and wait 15 minutes for any adverse reaction.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” she repeated.

I thanked her...and said, “I feel fortunate.”

She said, “It’s like winning the lottery. We only have 500 vaccines this week...300 the first week....and we have about 45,000 people in the county.”

That means Bonnie and I are among the 1.8 percent of people vaccinated in Levy County. There have been 2,600 cases and 25 deaths in Levy County thus far...one of the more rural of Florida’s 67 counties.

Oddly, perhaps, I haven’t felt a lot of COVID-19 anxiety over the last year...yeah, it’s been inconvenient...not fun missing our friends and family. But I stayed away from folks, washed my hands and wore a mask. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be ecstatic when this pandemic passes. And I must admit the sense of relief in getting a vaccination is overwhelming.

Some of those vaccinated report feeling guilty about getting the vaccine when so many others don’t, a variation of “survivor’s guilt” I suppose. Of course, I want my family and friends to have the vaccine as soon as possible...not just because I love them...but because I know that death is a greater possibility without it.

But that can be said of everyone...worldwide. I don’t know...but I don’t think I’ll feel guilt. Is there someone more deserving? I don’t even know how to answer that. Perhaps more than anything else, I will feel a resolve to live my life as fully as possible in tribute to those whose lives were cut short.

I owe them that. And for the living - most not yet vaccinated - I will do what I have done since last March...stay at safe distances, wash my hands and wear a mask...because I owe them that, as well.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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