Vax Attack

Last summer, we learned from Chimp’s institution that he was going to be expected to teach in person during the fall semester, possibly-immunologically-vulnerable-spouse be damned. The good things about it, at least, were these:

  • He’s on the fourth floor of a building that has no elevator, only a particularly long and decidedly sadistic 19th-century staircase, so nobody goes up there unless they really completely absolutely must, and even some of the musts take a regular pass 
  • It’s the oldest building on campus, with gigantic operable windows
  • He was scheduled to be on sabbatical this spring

…so all we had to do was get him safely through the fall and we’d be able to go back to our complete isolation for the next eight months. 

We decided we would physically isolate from each other during the semester, which we knew would be lonely and very unfun, but even with mandatory vaccinations on campus, we had no idea what the case rate was going to look like once the students were back in person and didn’t want to chance it. 

Before he went back, we stocked up on home tests and he tried lecturing in a variety of PPE. 

He settled on double-masking with N95s and a multi-layer fabric mask. Black, natch, for those of you who know his predilection for that. We had bought me a 3M VersaFlo PAPR for medical appointments, and I’d gotten him the bigger hoods for his gigantic philosophy-stuffed cranium so he could use it as well, but he didn’t think he could be understood in it. 

Even the double-masking was difficult to be heard through. I turned over to him my long-disused vocal mic and my shitty little guitar practice amp, and he used that as an impromptu public address system, so he didn’t have to shout himself hoarse.

I ordered the most threatening-looking high-velocity fans I could find, he opened the classroom windows each morning and put one in a window and another near where he was standing, flopping his hair around as if he were playing a gender-swapped 80s metal video vixen. It was a pretty temperate fall, thankfully, but his students are mostly Pennsylvanians, so they’re hearty in this regard.

He’s the kind of professor who oscillates about twice a decade between taking attendance because he’s bothered that people aren’t showing up and not taking attendance at all because he’s not, and he’s been in a “not” run for a while, but he explicitly said the first day of class that he wouldn’t be taking attendance and he’d be making the recorded lectures available. He doesn’t usually say much about my condition, but this time he explained that my illness meant he was especially concerned about operating as safely as possible.  

***

I decided I should be vaccinated. Of course Dr. Cheney had said in 2009, when I first became his patient and he heard about the flu-shot trigger, “Don’t be vaccinated again unless it can’t be avoided,” but I felt as if it couldn’t. I had hoped, when everything went pear-shaped in March of 2020, that I would be able to wait the thing out without finding out what would happen if I got a vaccine, but that hope was long gone by summer of 2021. I had kept an eye on the Heath Rising vaccine poll for those of us severely affected, and it certainly seemed like the risk of the vaccination was less than the risk of what the disease might do. 

I prepared with some of the pre-vaccine supplements Dr. Klimas recommended, more to feel as if I were performing a ritual of Doing Something than out of any confidence that it’d affect the outcome, and took the two doses of Pfizer in July. The local health system was still sending EMTs around to give housebound folks the vaccine in person, so that was what we did. 

The second time the EMT came out, we had this conversation:

Elaina the EMT: I put you first on the route today because I noticed last time you had a little bit of anxiety.
J: [being vaccinated outdoors, with a fan blowing, wearing a PAPR] …a little bit of anxiety?
E: Ha.
J: Ha.

The first went fine. I didn’t feel worse; in fact I thought maybe I felt a touch better over the next few weeks. After the second, though, the thing I feared happened – my sleep went to pieces. If you’ve visited me here before you know this is my most serious difficulty. More in a later entry on how I’ve tried to fix that.

Chimp got through the semester with no scares, and on December 17th, two weeks after his last day on campus, we kissed for the first time since August 24th. It was a comfort to the whole household; the very first night we went back to cuddling on the bed at pillow time, Bootsy joined us again, as he’d always been in the habit of doing. He uses it as an opportunity to have a good wash, seeming to think our collective presence means he is safe from predators.

We all felt a bit safer from predators, I know.

I can’t begin to express how selfishly glad I was that because of the sabbatical, he didn’t have to be on campus during the Omicron wave. It was just our good luck; I would have been a nervous wreck.

***

I took the booster in February 2022. This time the local health system no longer had enough demand to send someone out, so we went over to the vax clinic at the local hospital. During the Omicron madness, I had gotten another PAPR so Chimp could come to appointments I had with new practitioners, so we both wore our Outbreak cosplay and let me tell you if you want to make an attention-getting fashion statement that’ll do it.

The booster at least hasn’t made the sleep still worse, so I guess at the moment I feel as okay as I can about this miserable constantly-getting-vaccinated we’re all apparently going to do for a while.

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