By Russ Herring, DNP, FNP-BC, CSCS
I tell every patient to watch the Great Falls Clinic website, the Clinic Facebook page, the City County Health internet page. I tell them to watch the news. I tell them to keep their ear to the ground and their nose to the wind.
Actually, I mess that last one up more often than not.
“Keep your nose to the ground and your eye to the wind…”
I’m telling patients to pay attention to news sources, and to get their COVID vaccine as soon as the opportunity presents itself. I’ve even told a patient that it would probably be easier to reschedule a total joint replacement than to reschedule their COVID vaccine, and that I would recommend they get the latter before worrying about the former if they can’t have both.
Don’t tell orthopedics that I’ve been dispensing this advice.
I’m kidding, I think even a hardened orthopedic surgeon would agree.
I offer to show patients the tail I grew after I’d received my COVID vaccines. “It’s prehensile, I can use it to flip pancakes while I’m making coffee.” “Also, I glow in the dark, but that has turned out to be useful, as I no longer require flashlights, or lamps around my house.”
It’s been a full month since I completed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine series. My experience was slightly different than average. My friend, Dr. Mitch McKamey, just happened to show up to the vaccine line alongside me, on Day 1 of the vaccine being offered at Great Falls Clinic. I asked him to hold my hand and offered to hold his, too.
I told his wife that he was so brave and strong. She’s also a friend, and knows well that I’m ridiculous.
Shot number 1 hurt a little. My shoulder was sore, almost immediately. It remained sore for about 48 hours. The next day, I felt fine, other than the sore shoulder meat. I still went to the gym, so it wasn’t sore enough to be limiting. The day after that, I had a pretty decent headache, but took some Tylenol and worked, so again, it wasn’t severe enough to be limiting. The headache persisted into the next day, though it was now accompanied by fatigue. The headache had abated by the following day, but I still felt pretty drained. I got the first COVID shot on a Wednesday night, and it was Monday of the next week before I felt completely normal again.
I never missed work, and I never really felt that badly. Historically, I have had zero problems with vaccines, ever, but I was expecting that the COVID vaccine could be a little different. I’m in the business, and had “done my research.” Thus, I was expecting a pretty robust immune response, and I acknowledged that I might not feel too smurfy.
I was surprised that the first shot hit harder than the second, which casually suggests that I may have had asymptomatic COVID-19 at some point in the past year. I’ve certainly expected to. I’ve had patients faint in my arms, sick from COVID and short of breath. I’ve been tested 10 times, without a positive test, but that is another story.
You may have heard me say that I don’t wear the mask to protect me from you, the patient, I wear the mask to protect you from me, the provider. It isn’t uncommon for all of us in healthcare to get mild colds a couple times every winter, it comes with the territory, thus I’m not scared of you, but I can guarantee that I’ve been exposed, if never infected.
Second shot was a complete non-event. My shoulder wasn’t sore, and I never had any reaction, whatsoever.
There is an important distinction between responsibility and freedom.
I’ve been warning patients to expect to feel under the weather for a day or two after their COVID shots. I’ve been warning everyone that they’re going to hear stories about how poorly people felt after the vaccinations, but to be responsible adults and get the vaccine anyway. I view it as a duty to the rest of us.
We’re all tired of the masks. I’m tired of the masks. I have so many patients who I feel I haven’t really met, because we’ve never actually seen each other’s faces. I’m tired of this. That said, if we don’t continue to be responsible adults, and wear the masks around other people, if we don’t get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, additional strains and mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have a chance to evolve and take a foothold.
There are numerous strains of COVID-19 now. There are prominent mutations, which are even more infectious than the devil we’ve been fighting the past year. The “British Variant”, B,1.1.7 and the “South African Variant” B.1.351 have both been detected in the United States, and are both more infectious, thus far, than old-fashioned COVID (cdc.gov, 2021). However, current vaccines still provide decent, though reduced, protection against these variants (cdc.gov, 2021). The punchline in all of this is that, should we prove to truly fail at the vaccine game, the South African variant doesn’t respond to some of the very limited medications we’ve found with some effectiveness against COVID-19 (cdc.gov, 2021).
It isn’t about you. It isn’t about me. I got the vaccine as soon as I could, because I still look in the mirror and lie to myself about being young and healthy. If the vaccine was going to do anything bad, people like me should be who those bad things happen to. My inner teenager still tells me that I’m indestructible.
I work in healthcare, it is my responsibility to my patients not to put them in danger, so I got the vaccine as soon as I could. I wanted to look you in the eyes and to know, not believe, that it was all going to be fine.
It is going to be fine, but you have to get the shot. The second it’s your turn, get the shot. Know the difference between freedom and responsibility. Get the shot, not for yourself, for everyone else. We have to shut this down. I miss seeing my patient’s faces. I miss having to turn around to go home because I forgot my wallet, and not because I forgot my mask. Get the shot so we can kill the ever-evolving mutations before they get even worse.
Get the shot because I’m tired of consoling patients about dead loved ones.
Get the shot because I’m worried about my peers, who have buried dozens of patients since this started, and are on the verge of mental collapse themselves.
Together we stand, divided we fall.
Get the shot and let’s work on rebuilding our lives.
About Russell Herring, DNP, FNP-BC, CSCS
Russell R. Herring, DNP, joined the Great Falls Clinic in 2018 and is among the newer healthcare providers in the State of Montana. He works alongside Drs. David Engbrecht and Dr. Carey Welsh in Family Medicine at the Great Falls Clinic Northwest location. Russell specializes in diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic healthcare and treatment plans for acute and chronic illness, and in education and guidance of patients regarding disease prevention and health promotion. He is currently accepting new patients at the Northwest Clinic, 1600 Division Road, Great Falls. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 406-268-1600.
“cdc.gov”. Emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. Retrieved February 6, 2021 from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/scientific-brief-emerging-variants.html