Sunday morning, I got my email from the state that it was time to make my COVID-19 appointment. I clicked on the link and then suddenly, I had an appointment for today, first thing in the morning.
And I took it.
As I mentioned on Saturday, vaccination is a particularly weighty topic for me. I don't think there is a moment in my life that hasn't somehow been wrapped up in the complications of vaccination. I shared my father's origin stories--a church that believed only in faith healing.
And then my brother, who tragically was one of those one in million stories of a severe adverse reaction--
I was surprised a the positive, supportive feedback I received on my post from Saturday. I know I shouldn't be--I've got the best people in the world surrounding me. But, still, sharing a negative vaccination story, mixed with a less-than-ordinary family religion in the age of COVID-19 felt risky. I felt like I had to manage the risk of sharing my truth with the potential damage that truth might do. Would I somehow convince someone not to get vaccinated?
That is always the last thing I want.
Most of you know the third vaccination themed story in my life: my daughter Lily, who was 14 months old when she was diagnosed with cancer. Cancer stops everything regular from happening. For Lily, who already endured a severe premature birth at 29 weeks, vaccination was already a huge part of her story too. Preemies are at greater risk for everything. Lily's premature lungs made everything precarious--a sniffle in one baby could mean a hospital stay for Lily. We went for our monthly RSV shots and I asked a lot of people if they were vaccinated.
I was always surprised at how many people chose not to vaccinate their children at all.
Then Lily had cancer and the world was suddenly a dangerous place for my daughter. All her vaccinations stopped and were delayed for over a year.
My surprise became something else when I asked who was vaccinated--it became complete bewilderment.
Before I was told my daughter could not have a vaccine--I was sort of okay with parents who chose the opposite. But then my daughter had cancer--and I was, not angry, but totally and completely without words.
I still am. Well, sort of, I've already written a lot of words.
I needed families to vaccinate to protect my daughter who had enough on her plate and did not need to add whooping cough or chicken pox to her health punch list. They had the luxury of not knowing the things I knew--of being free to make a decision instead of having the decision taken from you.
I am not trying to insult or put down parents who believe that vaccination will irreversibly injure their child. I think it is a discussion I'd be happy to have and happy to have respectfully, because I do believe in research and a parent's right to research everything. But, given every experience that flows through my veins--even the very experience that ended horribly for my brother--I still don't get it. I don't understand how anyone can just declare they are against a whole entire class of medications that are aimed at saving lives.
Real lives. Not imaginary lives, but real lives, like the life of my friend's husband.
My friend's husband died from COVID-19 two weeks ago. His name was Skip. I did not know him very well. But Skip greeted by name at church every time he saw me. He'll never do that again. My friend is now a widow.
I indulged myself in these thoughts today--thinking what would happen to me as a widow? What would my children do? How could I live even a moment without Mike?
And I know I cannot control everything, but I can control this one thing.
While you sit considering whether to get the vaccine--just think of my friend. If you are waiting for an engraved invitation--consider yourself invited. If you are attempting to get out of the way so someone more worthy can get it--know that your immunity protects everyone around you too. And know that you are worthy, too. Help someone else get an appointment and get one for yourself. If anyone needs help refreshing screens and finding appointments in New Jersey, I'll help you.
We need to dig out of this pandemic, together.