DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Getting a real shot at hope

Phil confided in me as we drove toward the hospital.

“I’m as excited as I was on our first date: Anxious, a little sick to my stomach. I don’t know how it’s going to wind up,” he said, looking straight ahead.

His candor is one of the things I love best. Phil is cards-on-the-table in most situations — including this one in which he was about to receive his first COVID-19 shot.

Much like that first date, we’d waited a long time for this.

It was beginning to seem like everybody his age had already been vaccinated: friends in Port Angeles, Sequim, Spokane, Florida, Michigan and London, England, were getting shots, while Phil, who’s well within the phase 1A age bracket, couldn’t get into any of the local sites.

Far more patient than me — and using an algorithm published in the New York Times — he figured the email from Jefferson Healthcare would come in late March. But on Feb. 23, there it was: It’s your turn!

I leaped up from my chair to take pictures of the computer screen, pace the room while he chose Friday as the blessed day, do the touchdown dance and then go back to work with relief filling my heart.

See, I’ve lived in fear for 11½ months that I, in work-related travels around Jefferson County, would pick up the coronavirus somewhere.

What if I brought it home and gave it to Phil who, at 70, is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill?

Last July and November, I conducted in-depth interviews with two local people who survived COVID-19 — barely.

One caught it at a card game in early 2020 before we knew how the virus was spreading.

The other wasn’t sure where she was infected. She’d been exquisitely careful about masking, distancing and hand-washing, but couldn’t control others’ behavior.

I also read vivid accounts from long-haulers, men and women whose bodies and lives are still poisoned many months after infection.

A former colleague’s young wife has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS.

This is a condition befalling COVID patients, wreaking havoc with that thing we take for granted: blood circulation.

If you have POTS, your body can’t regulate the blood vessel-to-heart rate response, so you feel lightheaded, then jittery, then exhausted.

The months passed, with Phil and I more and more careful.

We made it through Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day — the two of us having dinner at home with our cats.

This long road feels like the Camino de Santiago or the Pacific Crest Trail minus the scenery.

Phil getting his first jab, as he calls it, resembles a kind of hostel along the way. I, along with millions more, must receive one of the vaccines before the destination comes into sharp relief.

Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County’s health officer, told me two more will be added to the three vaccines we have now. And the pace of immunization will accelerate, like a train whose freight is miracles.

At the drive-through vaccination clinic last Friday, we waited delightedly in line.

It took 60 minutes from arrival to departure, much like our first date, lunch at the Renaissance café in Port Angeles, lasted just an hour.

While Phil’s first dose of the Pfizer vaccine gives him some protection, Locke said, he can expect full immunity 14 days after his second jab.

Come Easter weekend, we’ll cook a joyful dinner at home, celebrating how it all turned out.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

Her column runs the first and third Wednesday of the month. The next one will appear March 17.

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