I got the second dose of the Moderna vaccine this morning.
It’s an important moment. Well, that is, important enough to us prisoners. How did it go? It was anything but good.
This is what happened:
(8:30AM) I’ll receive the final dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine this morning. I’ve been looking forward to this moment since I received the first dose 4 weeks ago. I’ve survived prison for 26 years and I’ve seen alot. Most of it I’d just assume forget. However, today is one that I will remember.
(8:50AM) I’m on my way to the infirmary for the shot. It’s a 2 minute walk from my dorm to the infirmary. I make it there in 75 seconds.
Covid ravaged my institution in October of 2020. I’d watched apprehensively as Covid slayed a path across the planet on its way to my dorm. It was especially merciless in the world’s jails and prisons. I’d been preparing for months. Now, here it was in my dorm. An alien invader come to occupy our bodies. Now, months later, we’re all fine. Except for those that didn’t make it. God rest those men.
(8:55AM) I sign a digital release of liability form before receiving the second dose. A painless prick in the arm. The nursing staff here is amazing.
I thank the nurse and she laughs. ”Don’t thank me yet,” she says ”Wait until tomorrow. You might not be so thankful.” I smirk and laugh. She’s always been the one to make me laugh with her wry sense of humor. ‘
‘Okay, then,” I say, leaving the room. I wonder what she meant by that?
(8:56-9:11AM) I restlessly sit in a socially distanced plastic lawn chair along with a dozen other convicts waiting to see if either of us have side effects. Sometime during this period I develop a strange head feeling similar to the effects of a lack of sleep or maybe consuming small amounts of alcohol. This also happened to me with the first dose. It had lasted for hours. I wonder if this will play out in a similar manner this time around?
(9:12AM) I’d never wanted for vaccination more than I’d wanted for this one. To actually receive it is in itself stunning. Inmates aren’t exactly a high priority to the public. I seem to have survived the observation period.
I walk back to my dorm.
(9:14AM) I take two 325mg aspirin, two 250mg Naproxen (similar to Advil). I’ve learned from family, friends, and the nursing staff here that the aspirin and Naproxen will help offset side effect feel from the vaccine. I discovered this first hand after the first dose a month ago.
(10:15AM) Everyone I know that’s received the double dose Moderna vaccine has said that the second shot is the worst. Even the women prisoners tell me of side effects from headaches to cold chills and sweats, to body aches and being totally bedridden.
If this is the cost of vaccination then I’m all in. It’s preferable to the alternative. Which is what? Grave sickness? Long term health consequences? Death? My neighbor tells me he still can’t taste or smell anything, and he had Covid in March 2020. Can you imagine never being able to taste or smell again? And, he says, some of the stuff he can taste doesn’t taste anything like it used to.
(11:20AM) I’m listening to music. “Bird Set Free” By Sia, is playing. I love this song. It was one of 3 songs I bought with the five dollars I received from the department of corrections for taking the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. I can’t believe they’re paying us to vaccinate. I’ll receive another five bucks for this second dose. I think I’ll buy more music.
The whole head feel thing has passed and I feel great.
(1:00PM) My arm is sore. Other than that I’m fine.
(3:00PM) I take (3) 325mg acetaminophen and 500mg of Naproxen as my continued preemptive strike against discomfort. All’s well so far.
I’ve been busy working with a shepherd today. I’m a dog handler in the Staff Dogs program. This one’s name is “Justin”, he’s a full grown Anatolian Shepherd bull dog mix. Right now he’s asleep on my bunk. I wonder if all the running I just did was a bad idea? I mean, considering the vaccine and all?
(6:00PM) Dinner call. I’m not going, it’s another meal of inedibles. Generic Frosted Mini-Wheats it is then. Cereal is my go to when I can’t choke down Aramark, Corp. slop. I eat, and then settle in to write.
(8:00PM) I’ve noticed that my whole body feels odd. Kind of hard to explain at the moment. It’s almost like that feeling you get when you’re about to get sick. I instinctively reach for more naproxen, but don’t take any for it’s only been a few hours since I last took some. In 3 hours I’ll take more.
(9:00PM) I swallow two 325mg acetaminophen and 500mg of naproxen. I’m definitely feeling as if my body isn’t feeling 100%. It all seems minor at the moment so hopefully it all stays this way. I read a little while listening to music.
(11:30PM) My body is aching some and I think I will call it an early night. I usually stay up until 2 or 3am. I’m out of acetaminophen so I decided to take 800mg of aspirin before I retire for the night.
While laying in bed I find myself thinking of how lucky I am to have received the vaccine. Things like this just don’t happen in prison. We’re treated with disdain 90% of the time. Don’t get sick either, because you’ll be lucky to be treated with anything more than ibuprofen, aspirin, and words to the effect “you’ll live.”
(1:00AM) I awake shivering with cold chills. I get up and put on my sweat pants and sweater. I then amble to the bathroom. My whole body is aching. I think to myself, I can handle this, if this is as bad as it gets then I’m good. A few minutes later I’m back in bed having tucked myself in like a burrito.
(2:30AM) I awake again. This time I’m burning up with a fever. I step out of my sweat pants, and throw off the sweater. I strip down to shorts and a t-shirt. I amble back to the bathroom. My body’s aching even more now and I throw open the window. There’s a lump in my throat. It’s an odd feeling, but there’s no pain. I go back to sleep.
(3:30AM) I awake drenched in sweat. Wtf? This sucks. I’ve got to be up at 6:30AM for the first of 3 dogs to come later today. I need to get some sleep! Again I amble for the bathroom, and a few minutes later I’m back in bed. I take 500mg of naproxen before I go back to sleep.
(4:30AM) I awake…again. This time I’m shivering. I close the window, and I put sweat pants on again. I double up my blankets and tuck myself in. I notice that my arm feels like someone took a baseball bat to it. I sleep on my other side.
(6:00AM) I’m awake…again. I’m no longer feeling feverish or have cold chills. Maybe the naproxen knocked it out? I sit up and realize that my whole body feels as if I’d been run over by a truck. My leg muscles ache, my arms hurt, my back feels like I’ve been stabbed in several places. There’s a sharp lump in my throat, but no pain. I snatch my toothbrush and mouthwash and head for the bathroom. I can barely walk the 30 feet without alot of pain. My calves are cramping, and I’m having terrible pain in my left leg. I move slowly, methodically.
I brush and decide to take a shower. Yes, I think, hot water would be good on the muscles. I grab my shower stuff and eagerly hit the water.
The first sign that something is very wrong comes when I take off my shirt. My whole chest and stomach area has broken out in a red blotchy rash. I strip. My whole body, from my upper chest, down to my upper outer and inner thighs is covered in a red, blotchy rash. I grab the mirror from my shower bag and look at my back. My back is even worse.
The rash doesn’t seem to itch or hurt, nor do I feel it beneath my fingers but I know it’s a sign that something is very wrong. I finish showering.
(6:45AM) I’m back at my bunk. Am I having some kind of dangerous side effect to either the vaccine or the medication I’ve taken since receiving it? I pull out the naproxen, acetaminophen, and aspirin bottles and read the warning labels again: “Acetaminophen may cause severe skin reactions…skin reddening…rash. If a skin reaction occurs, stop use and seek medical help right away.” One of the other bottles says not to mix with acetaminophen.
I’m not going to medical to see our inept doctors. I already know at best I’d be told to cease all meds. So I stop taking any medication, and tough it out through the pain. If the rash doesn’t show signs of diminishing by the end of the day I’ll go to medical.
(3:00PM) I’ve been running around all day with the dogs, and I feel a little better. The rash is still everywhere and doesn’t look like it’s going away. However, it doesn’t seem to be worsening either.
(5:00PM) The dogs have gone and I’m no longer aching like I was. My entire body feels worn down. The rash may be going away. The splotches no longer have definition, but have taken on a bad, red sunburned look. Otherwise I feel fine. I’ve been drinking lots of water. It just seems logical to do so. Right?
(8:00PM) I’m back in the shower and it’s moment of truth time. I strip. I break out the mirror and check out all the parts I can’t see. The rash is definitely going away. Everything looks like a light sunburn now. The lump in my troat is nearly gone, too.
(11:30PM) I go to bed early again. I feel fine, no aches or pains.
(6:30AM) I jump in the shower and strip. The rash is gone. *phew* I wonder, “Did I almost kill myself mixing medications in my effort to avoid body aches?” I can’t help but think that I may have. But what if the reaction was due to the Covid vaccine? What then? There will probably be a booster shot down the way, and next year Covid vaccines will likely be administered again.
Despite everything, I’d get the vaccine again. I faced the apocalypse once already, and I’ve seen what Covid does. I’ll vaccinate every year.
Next time though, I won’t be mixing pain medications.