I checked in with registered nurse Madelyn Torakis, director of nursing excellence, who confirmed my appointment. I was led into the patient waiting area, when I met nurses Kara Lynn and Sandra Maxwell, who is in charge of the vaccine clinic.
Was I ready for my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?
I had prepared myself for this moment.
As a health care reporter for nearly 40 years, I read carefully last year all articles on the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed to develop one or more COVID-19 vaccines.
Believe me, I was skeptical, even during the fall, that a vaccine would be approved by the FDA as safe and effective. I told people, even up until October, that I would answer « no » if asked if I would agree to be vaccinated. I wasn’t yet convinced.
But after interviews with several dozen experts and people who received the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, and reading additional reports on the vaccine’s efficacy, I changed my mind in late December.
So, I decided instead of reporting on people who have been vaccinated, asking why they did it and how they felt, I would get a vaccine and tell people my firsthand experiences.
Now I must reveal that I have heard from doctors, including Dr. Phil Levy of Wayne State University and Detroit Medical Center, who told me their second dose was much worse, in terms of reactions, than their first dose.
« I just received the second dose and the night after was horrible. Consistent story from colleagues too. It’s an expected effect not a side effect but rough nonetheless, » Levy said in an email.
Levy said he wants people to know a negative reaction is possible. There is « power in truth, » he said. In other words, be prepared to feel bad and go slow the next day.
But I was minutes away from receiving my first Pfizer dose and I was growing excited. Put me in, coach. Let’s play ball. I was ready.
Kara led me to a clinic room where I was given an eight-page fact sheet about the Pfizer vaccine and disclosures about the 11 side effects such as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, nausea and a sore arm. Allergic reactions could include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash and dizziness or weakness.
It also contained a list of the ingredients in the vaccine, which is messenger RNA, the new technology that triggers the body to make a protein that develops antibodies against COVID-19. The ingredients include MRNA lipids, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose.
Almost the same as they put in potato chips, I thought.
After I read the documents, Kara asked a series of questions and entered the answers into my Henry Ford MyChart medical record.
« No, » I am not allergic to any of those ingredients, « No, » I have not received another vaccine in the last 14 days, « No, » I have not been infected by COVID-19, and « No’s » to a number of other questions.
Now it was the moment of truth. I took off my long-sleeve dress shirt and sat patiently while she prepared to insert the needle with the magical medicine into my left arm.
I started to close my eyes, as I would normally do when I get a shot. However, Sandra was standing feet away from me with my smartphone ready to take a picture, so I tried to act invincible.
Kara swabbed my arm with an alcohol wipe. In went the needle and snap went the camera.
It was done. I was vaccinated with the first dose.
My imagination started to run wild and I heard wild applause and congratulations. The next thought I had was whether I felt any different. No, nothing yet.
Kara told me I needed to stay in the patient waiting area for 15 minutes just to be sure there were no immediate side effects. I followed her out, thanked her and sat down near nurse Madelyn.
How did I feel? Five minutes after the shot, still no change. My oxygen count was a good 98 percent, according to my Apple Watch. My beats per minute were 91 and three minutes later went to 95. Ninety minutes later, while I am writing this blog, my BPM is at 80. After 30 minutes of swimming, my BPM is about 105, so all numbers were well within my normal range.
As I write this, my temperature feels warmer than usual. I am now at 99.6 degrees. I usually run a little cooler than the average 98.6. I do feel a little tired. My eyeballs feel swollen, if that is possible.
Still, I am happy I received the vaccine as early as I did. I know hundreds, if not thousands, of people like me who are age 65 or older are considering a vaccine, and many have scheduled or tried unsuccessfully to schedule an appointment.
My message is be patient. Not everyone can get dosed right away. In fact, I am guessing that the Henry Ford appointment calendar is probably already booked for the next week.