31 August 2021

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Back in late March or very early April, I posted to social media a photo of Lizard getting his vaccination. I'd had to work very hard to get first-shot appointments for both of us so early because he was one month shy from the then-current eligibility age and his "other" special needs factors did not fall neatly into my state's official criteria (even though I, along with thousands of others, had unsuccessfully petitioned our governor to move people with neurological conditions up in priority), and vaccination appointments throughout the Denver metro area for the first three months were extremely hard to come by (which, in retrospect, was a very good thing... most people WANTED to be vaccinated).

Lizard's vaccination appointment was nothing short of a pure miracle, which I might elaborate upon one day, but not right now.

My own appointment was finally earned - within my age eligibility period - because I was willing to search city by city and then to drive to another distant metro area where appointments were available. I didn't want to wait. I'd lived in isolation with Lizard quite long enough, and even though we still are staying pretty much to ourselves because I'm trying to keep him safe, I was done with not being able to have in-person contact with anyone but his doctors and the pharmacist.

My decision to get vaccinated was not automatic or overnight, however.

For most of 2020, I had serious reservations about a vaccination that had not been, in my mind, fully tested or approved. I was scared. Downright terrified. I've had reactions to a few vaccinations, and I've always been careful about which ones I agree to have administered. Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty diligent about anything I put in my body. Plus, I'm not overly impressed by most politicians, and I don't really trust government. I also tend to have a pretty strong immune system. I generally don't get sick. So I completely understand and respect the feelings and genuine fears of others.

Some of my friends who bear such feelings expressed their concern when I posted Lizard's vaccination photo. They literally begged me not to get jabbed, and I knew it was because they care about me. But I'd already been through the emotional wringer during the summer of 2020 (right after I'd learned Lizard was going to have to undergo another surgery... during a pandemic!!!) when I tried to quell anger on both sides of the mask issue. I almost posted that story here when it happened but decided it wasn't worth losing another friend.

Yes, I lost a friend last year... because I don't think masks work. I wear masks. I've made masks which I've given away to hundreds of people. I did not sell a single one. I gave them away because I love the people I gave them to. I gave away all my hoarded elastic back when you couldn't find elastic to crafters doing the 500-mask challenge because I didn't have time to make that many masks, and it was the best I could do to help. There is a colossal difference between not wearing a mask and not believing masks work.

I can smell cigarette smoke (or forest fire smoke!) when I'm double-masked or wearing a filtered mask. Smoke particles are gigantic compared to the virus particles. Every person I know who got the virus regularly wore masks. In my opinion, masks lull people into a false sense of security. Some people think the mask is keeping them 100% safe. I don't think they do. So, yes, I am a mask hater. But I am a mask wearer.

By the time my worried friends and loved ones expressed their vaccination concerns, I'd already received my first shot, too. I'd planned to post a photo of it because I was so happy to have been able to finally get the first shot. In light of what happened last year when I tried to be a peacemaker, I decided to keep my mouth shut, my keyboard and blog opinion-free and my social media temporarily free of selfies.

And yet, I still had what I believed was a powerful story I yearned to share. I just didn't have the guts.

Last week, I read a most fascinating, wonderful, well-researched, humble and poignant tale by a member of my church of going against his own vaccination fears and following our prophet. I realized I should have followed my heart back in April and posted my own story instead of cowering to the fear of being confronted by well-meaning friends and loved ones.

Hopefully, it is not too late to share my own story. I have believed for several months now it is worth sharing.

When I learned some of the people who have recovered from COVID-19 are being diagnosed months later with Parkinson's (or other neurological conditions), my protectiveness toward Lizard really ramped up. As stated above, I petitioned our governor to move people with neurological conditions up on the list of vaccination priority. Thousands of voices were not heard. Lizard would have to wait until his age category was eligible, which was still nearly two months away at that point.

Yet I still did not know whether I wanted either of us to receive the vaccinations. My heart literally was in knots.

I prayed mightily and did all the research I could, including a once-published but now-purged interview with someone from one of the pharmaceutical companies describing the research that had been done and how testing was being done to speed up the process in the hopes of stopping this virus in its tracks. (The article, published during the summer of 2020, apparently contained intellectual properties and has been scrubbed from even internet archives.) Months later, I was devastated to learn the article had been removed because I thought the information contained therein might be helpful to others who were not sure about the vaccine. And I hoped like heck the person being interviewed hadn't been fired because the information provided had been a literal answer to my prayers. I felt as if God had put that article in front of me so I would know when I received the answer to my prayers that there would be no need for doubt.

And I did receive an answer. I felt calm, and I felt an assurance that it would be okay for Lizard to be vaccinated. There were no voices; there was no baseball bat hitting me across the head. Just the most peace I'd felt the entire previous 13 or so months. I told Lizard of my research and my answer, and I told him he would have the final say as to whether he would be vaccinated, but I was no longer afraid. He was still far from whole at that point, but he trusted me, and he trusted God and agreed to be vaccinated when he became eligible.

Within a couple of days or so, Russell M. Nelson, leader of my church, was vaccinated. He is a retired surgeon. I trust him not only as a leader of my church, but as a medical expert. His vaccination and going public about it served as an exclamation point to my decision for both Lizard and me to be vaccinated. Some of my friends and loved ones continue to share videos and articles expressing doubts and concerns, but I have never doubted the answer to my own prayers.

I've learned over the years to recognize an answer to prayer when I receive it, and I've learned not to question my answers. I trust the Lord. He knows what He is doing.

Last week, during a short mid-week church Zoom discussion, one of the participants expressed gratitude that the world's prayers have been answered. Worldwide we prayed for an end to the pandemic, and now we have several vaccines, including one that has been fully approved. I had not considered the vaccines in that perspective, but I, too, am so grateful for the effort which went into developing, testing and administering the vaccines so light can at long last be seen or at least perceived at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel may still be overwhelming and even dark in some places, but there is hope. And I am thankful for it. In the last two years, I have experienced enough grief, angst and depression to make my cup runneth over. I needed hope. I needed to know things eventually will get better. And I guess I needed to know my Heavenly Father loves me enough to provide a personal answer to me when I am at the lowest I have ever been.

Tomorrow we celebrate a year of being free from acute rehab following Lizard's back surgery. And, thanks to the vaccine, we can celebrate that one day, we might be able to overcome the dangers of this virus and be able to gather with friends and loved ones, without masks or distancing, once again.

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