I’m a runner, and run coach. I love EVERYTHING running. But, I also work as a Physical Therapist Assistant at a large hospital, Wellstar’s Kennestone Regional Medical Center. Meaning, I work regularly with COVID-19 patients since early in the pandemic. While I follow PPE guidelines, it is not full-proof protection from COVID-19. I know this is true given a number of my fellow therapists have contracted the virus. Only the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best, fullest, protection. Fortunately, I was able to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine dose this week, and my experience to date is below.
COVID-19’s Wrath Seen First-Hand
I’ve seen first hand COVID-19’s effects on our patients. Patients gasping for air on high flow oxygen while simply sitting in bed. Or, a patient whose heartbeat races to 150 beats/minute just by walking a few feet. And, it affects patients of all ages, as I’ve seen with patients in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc. Such as the 40+ year-old woman whose multiple blood clots led to a partial leg amputation.
The wide range in the virus’ severity is scary. Some experience no symptoms, others die. Even worse, long term health repercussions, or other medical events like strokes, seizures, or Guillain-Barre syndrome (a sudden onset of paralysis) can occur with COVID-19.
Physical therapy at our hospital is typically “hands-on” with our patients. That’s a LOT closer than six feet. Whether a patient sits at the edge of the bed, stands, or walks, our hands are on our patients for safety, and direct physical assistance.
Our hospital, Wellstar Kennestone Regional Medical Center, received the Pfizer vaccine the first week of its availability. Lucky for me, I had my first vaccination on day one, and was the eighth employee to receive it. Given my frequent exposure to COVID patients (current assignment being the pulmonary floor, and IMCU), I was flagged as a priority. When my manager called to see if I was willing, I said YES.
I was honestly nervous about getting vaccinated, as most vaccinations have side-effects and risks. That, along with how quickly the vaccine came to market made me wary. Plus, I recently received the first dose of the shingles vaccine (Shingrix), and I felt pretty terrible for 24 hours.
Without the Vaccine?
BUT, I am much more wary about contracting COVID-19, and infecting my family, friends, patients and co-workers. Not to mention I am ready to get my life, and others’ lives, off “hold!” I want to keep running, exercising, and live a healthy life. I plan to continue running marathons, half-marathons, and races of all distances. I want to travel, hug my friends, my parents, my family. And so much more, of course. I don’t want a virus that can be controlled with a vaccine to mess up any of that.
The vaccination itself was not a “big deal”. Just a little stick with a quick sting. We were asked to sit for 15 minutes after to watch for any adverse reactions, such as difficulty breathing, throat/face swelling, a rapid heartbeat, or body rash. Fortunately, no incidents.
Below are normal responses to receiving a vaccine. Meaning, if you experience any of these from the COVID-19 vaccine, it is not a cause for alarm:
- Injection site pain
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Injection site swelling or redness
- Feeling unwell
- Swollen lymph nodes
Post COVID-19 Vaccine Experience (First 48 hours)
48 hours post my first COVID-19 vaccination, and the ONLY side-effect I experience to date is a sore arm. I ran five miles the morning after, and then ran a strenuous eight mile interval workout the day following. I noticed no impact whatsoever on those two very chilly runs.
I will, of course, get the second dose in early January (between 1/5 – 1/7). Even if I have side effects on the second dose, it will be WORTH IT. I have a virtual half-marathon event the following weekend, and I am confident I’ll run it. Yet, if for some reason I can’t run it, or have to walk it, it will STILL BE WORTH IT.
If you are on the fence about the COVID-19 vaccine, I encourage you to get it. We were slow to use masks, and far too many people have suffered, and died because of it. We can’t make the same mistake with a vaccine with an efficacy of ~95% with minimal adverse side effects.
“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” ―
Of course, always seek advice from a medical professional. All opinions are my own.