Today marks two weeks since I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
We wanted the process to go as smoothly as possible for me and so decided to call my nurse. We explained that I have Cerebral Palsy and hydrocephalus with a VP shunt and a history of brain bleeds. We had heard a lot about the different vaccines and wanted to know what the best one would be for me.
After listening to what we told her about my medical history, she suggested Pfizer.
We had one answer and wanted another so we asked my GP (family doctor) to call us back. In the end, another doctor called us since my GP was not there. She also suggested the Pfizer vaccine given my disabilities.
By this time, we knew the nurse said she would talk to her supervisor on the nursing team to try to get us a slot for the vaccination.
Her supervisor called us and offered us an appointment for Tuesday 6th July. I was counting down the days, we both were.
Fist Dose: 6 July
The day of the first vaccination, Alfredo stretched my arms a little to make sure they were as relaxed as possible and we left early although we did not have far to go.
We’d checked the weather some days before and got caught in an unexpected sudden rain shower which got us (and our masks) quite wet.
I had a new mask for the occasion, and it felt comfortable on my face. It’s a mask that has different sections for the mouth nose and chin and is known as a “fish” design. The protection level is FFP2 in Europe (N95 in the US). It has 5 layers of protection and I am happy I got it in purple (more like a lilac color but it’s really pretty).
Alfredo put it on for me since my hand-eye coordination and hand/ arm spasms make precise actions difficult always. I had to try hard to stay still as I was so excited and I was slipping around in my wheelchair a bit which did not help with getting ready to go.
When we arrived at the health centre, we checked with the nurse who would be vaccinating me as to whether the Pfizer vaccine (when in doubt, check again and again :)) would be OK for me given my conditions. He said yes, and commented on how wet we were which made me smile.
I still have vivid memories of being really ill in hospital after shunt problems and I didn’t want to have them again, although I never had, or have, any control over when they were going to happen.
We heard the symptoms of a headache related to raised intracranial pressure (pressure inside the skull).
I had symptoms of vomiting, dizziness not being able to stay awake and wanting to sleep all the time, not being able to eat or drink as well as increased spasticity and the worst headaches of my life which woke me up in the early hours of the morning.
This resulted in 4 surgeries and 2 Intracranial pressure monitors plus difficult recovery periods in the first eleven years of my life, and was really traumatic, I feel I have an understanding of what that kind of headache feels like. I felt glad that my current shunt was working well.
After our chat with the nurse (can you tell we’re worriers?) my vaccination had started: I did feel the needle going in and I know I winced and this was followed by a muscle spasm which was eased as Alfredo held my arm gently in the waiting area outside. Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself during it.
The nurse didn’t tell me he was going to put the needle in but maybe it was better he didn’t as I had no time to be nervous.
I was not too nervous, but I was excited and I think my muscles felt that too.
I had taken my usual dose of Baclofen when I woke up as we even checked with the doctor that was OK to do so, and it was.
Two minutes later, I was outside the room watching as the nurse gave Alfredo his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. He was smiling at me behind his mask and I was smiling too, although I felt emotional, like I was going to cry with happiness. It was an emotional moment.
Meanwhile, the happy, “relieved” spasms where still happening and my fingers and arms were getting sore. My legs were painful too. It was time to take my afternoon dose of Baclofen.
I looked around me to check people weren’t close by and fortunately there were only 9 people in the building at the time, between medical staff and people waiting to be vaccinated.
I immediately felt numbness in the area of the injection and then felt a warm feeling there, almost like a heat massage.
A nice thing that happened was that a doctor stood socially distanced from me and asked me now and then if I was OK (not before asking if I had been vaccinated) to which I proudly told her I’d had my first dose).
At this point, I felt fine. I was glad she was concerned about me as the health centre was the vaccination site for the anyone with complex medical conditions or disabilities as well as the over 60s. “complex” was one of the most used words in my medical history.
We waited about half an hour although we’d been told 15 minutes was enough. Then we went home, but not before buying some Paracetamol to have just in case.
Back home, I didn’t feel anything except pain in the area of the injection right away. Some hours later, I started having more arm pain and felt really tired and had a headache.
I tried to relax beforehand using my powered wheelchair’s electric positioning but felt too sleepy so went to bed and fell asleep immediately for a few hours in the afternoon.
Second Dose: 27th July.
We had an appointment for the evening but last time the nurse said we could go whenever we wanted. We left mid-afternoon like last time after the same arm-stretching and mask routine as before. This time, I felt excited too.
The shot going in did not hurt and we told the nurse that I’d had a bad time with arm pain the last time as he asked how we’d been, not before asking if we’d had Covid, to which we answered no.
We felt well immediately afterwards and waited half an hour again before leaving. I had some spasms beforehand, but again I was excited. I don’t mind these as long as they don’t turn painful, but they are hard to control too.
We finally left and had the vaccination.
The arm pain started for me again some hours later but this time what was worse was the headache. With the first dose, it felt like the start of a headache all day but this was all over my head and lasted for two and a half days. I took Paracetamol during that time.
This was so different from the last time I had had a needle stuck in me. But that’s a story for another post.
After my experience, I urge EVERYONE to get vaccinated. A few seconds of a needle in your muscle isn’t much to go through and after a few days of side effects I felt great. Trust me, I have been through many more invasive procedures and I am happy to be vaccinated. The best part was being able to have the vaccination with my husband and caregiver.
Vaccination saves lives and is the only way to help in the fight against Covid.