And They Don’t Stop Coming

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

My mother is a nurse. When the vaccine was first released to the public, she was among the first able to get it. Randomly she received a text from one of her supervisors that a spot had opened up and that if she could make it to the hospital after work (she works from home), then she could receive her first dose. I was excited for her; I’d assume that for every twenty something without a pre-existing condition our biggest fear throughout this pandemic has been accidently killing our parents by spreading Covid to them. With this first dose, 25% of my fear vanished. Then a month later, she received her second dose and my anxiety was down to 50%.

Being vaccinated, the state of Connecticut asked her to volunteer her time to give out vaccines. Without hesitation, she signed up for as many days as she could. I, being a vain youngster, asked her if she would be compensated at all for this, surely spending your weekends jabbing people in the arm deserved some sort of pay, but no she would not be paid. I would remark every day before she went out to volunteer, “you know, they should at least give the families of the volunteers first picks on missed appointments, it would be a shame for them to throw out a perfectly good shot.” I really wanted some of that sweet sweet vaccine if you could not tell by now.

My plan did not work, I was never able to get squeezed into a missed appointment. Slowly but surely, every willing member of my family was able to get a vaccine. At first my sister and then my father got their shots, all the while I searched every day for an open appointment. On a technicality I was a part of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania’s first phase list of eligibility. Who knew that being obese and smoking would work out in my favor? Still, months past and no appointment was ever found.

I started doing DoorDash to make some quick cash on the weekends. At the end of my first weekend I got an email from DoorDash corporate. Food delivery drivers are considered essential workers. “Great,” I thought, “now I have even more of a reason to get the vaccine.” A lot of the pharmacies that I was checking wouldn’t let me through to make an appointment with my “pre-existing conditions”, but now I could get through to all of them with my essential worker status. Yet still, every website I checked had zero availability from now until the end of eternity. I was resigned to the fact that it might be until the end of this year that I would be able to get my hands on a magnificent vial of Moderna, a fabulous piece of Pfizer or that jewel that is Johnson & Johnson. That is until last week.

Last week, I received an email from a Pennsylvania government address. It announced a two-day vaccine clinic. I checked the available times and to my surprise, every single timeslot was open. I scheduled my appointment; I never knew that hitting confirm on a website could cause such emotion. I was so close to being able to be free of Covid-19. Obviously, you still have to be careful even after you receive that vaccine, but still, knowing that you can’t die from one of the most infectious diseases to ever pop out of modern history is a feeling like no other.

So, the day of my appointment I left forty minutes early. With fifteen minutes to spare, I hit the exit to Monroeville. And oh boy, have I grown a new spot in my heart for hate. Monroeville’s traffic situation feels as though it was built by a guy who has never used a road before. Seriously, I think that I’d rather drive through downtown Manhattan before I ever drive through Monroeville again. The line to take the exit from the highway stretched back at least a half mile. Absolutely ridiculous. And the traffic wasn’t even for the vaccine clinic, those were just average people choosing to either live or do business in Monroeville. I’d never been there before, so I can’t tell you if this was an anomaly or not, but seriously at least a trillion dollars of Biden’s infrastructure bill needs to be focused on just Monroeville alone. Alright, rant over.

I get to my appointment thirty minutes late and I’m freaking out. In my head, I think that I’ve just blown my best chance at getting a vaccine. I get guided by National Guard members to an open parking lot, find a space and run to the office building that had been repurposed into an absolute vaccine administering machine. I walk through the metal detector, get searched by a woman with one of those metal detector wands that you usually encounter at concerts, which I thought was redundant. If I already passed one metal detector, what are you really going to find with the wand detector? I wait in line, getting beckoned through random doors which lead to more lines which in turn lead to more doors and lines. I finally reach a kind woman sitting in front of an iPad who was able to check me in. I told her I was late, to which she replied that I didn’t even need an appointment to get vaccinated. Cool.

I get motioned to another kind woman who rechecked my details, rubbed my arm with an alcohol swab and boom, I was vaccinated. They gave me my card and a little reusable shopping bag and had me wait in a large room full of chairs to see if I would have a reaction. My fifteen minutes passed with no reaction and I left. On the way out, I saw that the line had nearly quadrupled in size. When I arrived, the line started past the metal detectors. When I left, the line was deep into the parking lot. But the wait, no matter how long, would be worth it. After this one shot, we would all be free of the fear that this last year has had hung over it.

My two days afterwards I had some mild reactions, nothing too bad but enough to where I basically just slept the days away. Then I was good. I obviously still have to wait the fourteen days from getting the shot to be completely in the clear, but a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve always taken this pandemic seriously, from the beginning I’ve been worried about getting it and spreading it, but of the two, as selfish as it sounds, getting it has always been the scarier hypothetical. I know that I’m young and statistically I could beat it, but the fact that I could end up being one of the young ones whose lungs fill up and just drops always scared the living hell out of me. So finally, for the first time in a year, I could live without constantly thinking about my own mortality.

Since then, my mind has been freer than usual, that is until, I learned that I might develop blood clots now. Now it is back to the constant thoughts about my own mortality.

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