Tag Archives: health

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

We have both gotten the first dose of the Moderna vaccine against Covid!

*whew!*

The kid can’t get vaccinated until the <16 safety and efficacy data comes back, but he’s still young enough that he’s at a lot less risk to begin with, and having all the adults around him vaccinated will let us all get a lot closer to “normal” life outside the home soon. (Whatever “normal” is these days.)

Smooth Scheduling (No, Really!)

After hearing horror stories from people in earlier tiers and different states, I was really expecting to have trouble setting up appointments. I figured it was going to be like trying to get tickets for Comic-Con. Or worse: like trying to get a hotel room for Comic-Con. Broken websites, or only finding appointments three weeks out, or only finding appointments on the other side of the county, or starting to schedule an appointment and having it disappear in the middle of registering. I bookmarked all the pharmacy Covid-19 pages ahead of time just in case the state or county websites crashed and burned.

Fortunately we were both in UCLA Health’s system, because they’re running a well-oiled machine.

The day before general eligibility opened up, just as I was starting to freak out about how long it would take to get appointments, UCLA Health sent out an email to their patients saying to just schedule an appointment through MyChart. We picked the nearest location (about half an hour away), she got an appointment for the first day, and I got one for a few days later.

We could have scheduled for the same time, but we wanted to stagger our shots just in case we both got knocked out by side effects. Gotta have at least one functional adult around!

Getting (the) Shot

The location we both went to is a regular medical office, not a megasite. They don’t have outdoor lines or giant waiting areas, and they don’t have separate entrances and exits, and the hallways are kind of squirrely. But they minimize bottlenecks and keep you moving quickly so you aren’t sharing airspace with anyone for longer than a couple of minutes.

  1. They screen everyone on the way in with the usual symptom questions and a temperature check.
  2. When someone’s ready at the front office, they send you in to check your ID, confirm whether you’re there for the first or second dose, hand you the information sheets and send you down the hallway.
  3. At each intersection, they have someone to direct you through the maze until you reach an exam room.
  4. One person is waiting for you in the exam room. They double check your name and which dose you’re there for, then give you the shot and the CDC-issued paper card indicating which vaccine you received and when it was.
  5. Then they send you down another hall where someone directs you to one of the chairs scattered throughout the halls to wait out the 15 minutes.
  6. Rather than try to keep track of everyone, they just ask you to set a 15-minute timer on your phone and you can leave if you’re still feeling OK at the end.
  7. They also ask if you have the MyChart app on your phone. If you do, you can sign in and there’s already a button to schedule your follow-up for the second dose. If not, or if you run into problems with the app, they’ll schedule it for you.

The whole process is fast. Each of us was in and out within half an hour. Including parking the car.

Side Effects

The shot itself was relatively painless, but we both developed sore arms after a couple of hours. More than a flu shot, less than a tetanus shot. Mine cleared up after two days, while Katie’s lasted a little longer. We also both experienced fatigue starting around the same time as the soreness. Hers was milder — she described it as more just wanting to be left alone than actually being tired — but I was wiped out for the evening and most of the next day.

A bit unpleasant, sure, but nowhere near as bad (or as long) as actually getting Covid-19!

With any luck the second dose will go as smoothly.

Four Covid Tests

I’ve gone through or seen four different Covid-19 testing procedures over the past year, not counting the ones I’ve only read about. (You remember, the early days of the pandemic when they were still trying to make enough tests, and weren’t sure just how easily transmissible it was, so they had people wearing haz-mat suits and passing the test kit to the patient on the end of a long pole.)

The first Covid-19 test I took was in July 2020. I was coughing and registered a fever, so I went to an urgent care. Masks and distancing were standard by then. I signed in at the door, then waited in the car until they called me on my phone. They led me into one of the exam rooms, asked me the screening questions, then handed me a nasal swab to administer it myself.

The second Covid-19 test I took, at the end of September, was in the emergency room. I was there for an unrelated health problem, but if you’ve got someone who’s going to be in the ER for a while (and let’s be honest, if you have to go to the ER, you’re going to be there for a while), you have to check. They basically just stuck the cotton swab up my nose while I was sitting on a gurney in the hallway. To be fair, I was pretty out of it by that point.

The third Covid-19 test I took was at a drive-through pharmacy window. I didn’t have any symptoms, but I’d been potentially exposed. I made an appointment ahead of time and drove up to the window. This was the kind of window with an extending drawer that they normally use to trade your payment for your medication. They passed a plastic bin out with the swab kit, instructions, and a collection vial. I did the swab myself, put it in the vial, then put the vial back in the bin to return it.

The fourth test isn’t one I took myself, but I was at an urgent care last week for another issue and got to see how they were handling it. They were screening everyone at the door to the building. If you were there for Covid-19 testing, you wouldn’t even set foot in the building. You’d wait on the sidewalk or in your car, and when they were ready, a nurse would come out and meet you with the test kit. I don’t know whether the nurses or patients were performing the nasal swab, but I thought doing it all outside (this is Southern California in spring, so YMMV) was a good way to minimize transmission.

Virtual Waiting Room

Waiting at home for a link to a video call is, in some ways, better than waiting at the doctor’s office. You’re home, after all! You can use your most comfortable chair. You don’t have to worry about getting sick from other people in the waiting room. You know where the bathroom is, you can bring your coffee in, you have all your own reading material.

But….

There’s always that nagging suspicion that the email with the conference link has been lost, and they’ve been waiting for you to connect for the last 10 minutes and will just move onto the next patient.

Which I’ve had happen.

Over the last few months we’ve dealt with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, several in-browser apps and at least one app that couldn’t figure out landscape orientation. Between school and health, we’ve had some setups where we log into an account and the system connects you to the right person, some where each meeting has its own code, and some where a week’s worth of classes will use the same code. Some send the code or URL by email, some by text message, some through a portal. A lot of them send it out right at appointment time.

None of them just, you know, call on the app when they’re ready.

I actually had to reschedule one appointment after checking in. The front office called me on the phone to do the check-in, and at the end they asked if I knew how to get onto their portal to get the Zoom link. I logged in, and waited…and waited…and waited… No new messages, and nothing in the appointment info about how to connect, only that it would be sent in a message. By the time I called back, they’d marked me as a no-show. It turned out they’d sent the link buried in a message (in their portal, of course), back when I’d made the appointment. “But it says you read this message!” Yeah…not recently.

I’ve got to wonder — if someone who does tech for a living has trouble keeping up with this stuff, how hard is it for people who aren’t used to it?

Only a Test. (Whew!)

A couple of days ago I developed a cough and measured a fever. The cough has been very intermittent, and the fever went away after a couple of hours.

Still, I went for a Covid-19 test after measuring the fever, and we all went into lockdown mode just in case. No errands or walks. Just picking up the mail. Extra hand washing. Keeping physical distance at home. It could easily be a false alarm, but with cases surging, it seemed like a good idea to be certain.

All the drive-through centers in the area seem to be closed and I had to go to an urgent care. Instead of letting people in the waiting room, they were checking us in at the door, taking a phone number, and having us wait in our cars. An hour and a half later, they called me in. After checking vitals and symptoms, they actually had me swab my own nostrils with a q-tip and put it in a sample vial.

I got the results two days later through the network’s online portal: negative!

So with the cough and fever gone, and the coronavirus test negative, we can at least return to…well, whatever this is. It’s certainly not “normal.”

(This year has brought it home that “normal” doesn’t really exist – the world is in a constant state of flux, and what we consider “normal” are just local circumstances in time and space.)

But I can go back to daily walks (masked), drive-through and curbside pickup for errands (masked), and only having to keep my distance outside the house.

Flu in the time of Covid-19

Last weekend, after spending Saturday running errands and Sunday taking care of stuff around the house, I went out to de-stress with a photo-walk at the coast, taking pictures of shorebirds, waves, sailboats, sand patterns and a zillon tiny shells. On the way back I started feeling aches and chills, and by evening I had a 101-degree fever and felt kind of like Firestorm.

Everything has pointed to the flu, and it’s been manageable with home care, so I’ve been staying home all week, alternating sick days and remote work depending on how much I can handle each day.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 has continued to spread across the world. Literally the next day, Los Angeles County announced the first confirmed case of community spread. Events are being canceled left and right, schools and museums and even Disneyland are closing, whole countries have implemented quarantines, and it’s become blindingly obvious that it’s no longer possible to contain, we can only hope to flatten the curve and keep the pandemic from overwhelming the health system by hitting too many at the same time.

It’s been a really weird week to stay home sick with something else.

On one hand it’s been kind of a trial run, which is useful. Practicing the extra hand washing, distancing, trying not to get anyone else in the house sick, all that. But on the other hand there’s the understanding that I’m probably going to have to go through it again when one of us gets actual covid-19. There’s a part of me that wants to get it over with, like being sentenced to time served.

I’m not especially worried about us, since we’re reasonably young and healthy to start with, so we’re likely to recover if and when we get it. Probably without hospitalization. But I certainly don’t want to spread it to someone at greater risk, so I’m totally on board with remote working (post-flu) and avoiding crowds.

Still, I hope that there’s a gap between when I’m no longer wiped-out/contagious from the flu and any potential lockdowns in this area (general or just our house). I’d like to be able to do supply runs, though we’ve been building up a bit of a cushion on each grocery trip. I’d like to be able to pick up takeout from local restaurants while they’re open. I may need to pick up a new thermometer since the button on this one has gotten temperamental with all the times I’ve used it this week.

But mostly I want to be able to spend at least some time outside. I get cabin fever. Tuesday I was already pacing the living room between bouts of fatigue. Wednesday I was excited to walk to the mailbox. And that’s only after a few days. I don’t need to be around lots of people. I like outdoor solitude. Hiking nature preserves. Photo walks like the one I did right before the flu hit me. Even just walking circuits around the neighborhood. If I can keep doing that, this will be a lot easier to manage.