#AstraZeneca: What a feeling!

Or not. Your mileage may vary.

Let us begin in the accepted narrative fashion, with a flashback. For lo, I am nothing if not acceptably narrative and fashionable.

The revolution will be fabulous

The year, it was many ago. The Place, it was Carleton, or rather a side road several miles outside of town. The occasion was an afternoon ride that my friend and I had taken, she on her rather awful hackney cross Colonel Blake (nicknamed Flakey), and me on a borrowed Quarter Horse hunter called Abby. She, my friend, turned off the road and popped over a jump, encouraging me to follow. I did, despite never having taken a jump that size. Abby had no trouble with it, having gone over that jump probably a dozen times with her owners that summer. I, also, got over the fence; the problem was that the horse and I parted company at some point, landing separately, her on four graceful hooves and me squarely on my butt, sitting straight up with perfect posture for once in my life.

My friends, this is not a good thing to do when falling from a horse.

It took me north of twenty minutes to get back on the horse, which did not surprise anyone later when I was X-rayed and discovered to have broken my back. But back on the horse I did get, because we were three miles from home and this was before cellphones, so we rode all the way back, me crumpled and resting my upper body’s full weight on the horse’s neck, much to her annoyance, but she was a Quarter horse so she just took it rather than dumping me, and we got home and me to the hospital and, after a few weeks of rest I was mostly healed up, but with some lingering nerve damage on my right leg which remains to this day from where the nerve connected with the spinal cord and got partially disconnected, and so it remains to this day. Weakness in the sensory nerves, but the muscle controlling nerves are just fine.

There’s a QAnon army metaphor to be made here, but I’m taking the high road today.

Flash forward to the 90’s, when I, like virtually everyone else in Vancouver, worked for Starbucks. An eight hour shift there will give you a great education in how to work hard (seriously, Starbucks gave me whatever work ethic I possess to this day, never had one before then), an appreciation for finely-prepared beverages, and almost certainly a collection of painful varicose veins if you stay long enough, and I stayed for seven years. The first hour after getting home from work was usually spent with my legs resting against the wall while the rest of my body formed the foot of the “L” configuration, draining my overtaxed blood vessels and trying to make the infernal pinching feeling go away. It took a good five years after leaving retail before my veins stopped bothering me on the reg.

Flash forward to four and a half years ago, when I took a tumble down a flight of stairs, landing on my head. Yet another experience I do not recommend to most people. A few, though. A few of them, they have it coming.

Once I was sufficiently recovered to hold short conversations and notice symptoms I noticed a creeping numbness in my right calf. It felt like a cross between my leg falling asleep, but only from the calf muscle on down to the ankle, and wearing an 80’s legwarmer slouched way down. Now, this was problematic enough, but over the next several weeks and months it crept upward, eventually affecting all of my right leg from the hip on down.

Saw a doctor. Doctor’s advice, as far as I can recall, was “Well, keep an eye on it and try not to fall down.” Sooper. So I kept an eye on it, tried not to fall down, and did my own research. Ended up more or less treating myself by cutting wayyyyyy back on alcohol, taking B vitamins, making sure to get enough Omega 3’s from my diet, and walking miles for exercise. The phenomenon, known in medical circles as “peripheral neuropathy,” began to recede, very slowly. First I got pins and needles in my thigh, then the feeling came back and pins and needles shifted south to my knee, then my knee was fine, and the pins and needles moved on to the calf, then the calf was fine and the ankle was tingling, and then everything seemed back to normal.

The de-tingling, de-neuropathizing, re-normalizing process took in excess of two years, by the way. It ain’t easy to normalize ol’ raincoaster. Ask anyone who’s tried it.

Which brings us to modern times…

And it was. So, so ready.

And that brings us to almost but not quite four weeks ago, when we (meaning I, one uses the Royal We when one is angling for a vice-regency gig) got the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19.

If you still haven’t gotten your first vax dose of whatever, here’s a shortcut from OpCovid19 that should save you days or weeks waiting to hear from the provincial government.

I’ve chronicled my immediate AZ side-effects over the next three days, and let me tell you, Possums, I was pretty damn pleased to get my sense of smell and sense of taste back, and for my infernal runny nose to FINALLY FINALLY stop running since it’d been going since at least September of last year. And here I thought the Roommate just needed to change his furnace filter!

I was all #TEAMAZ for days all over Twitter and various websites, as you can imagine.

So it was an unpleasant surprise when I began noticing that horrible, familiar feeling. Pinching. Cramping. Veins throbbing.

Oh. I thought. Wonder if I’m going to have a stroke in my sleep. Huh. That would be annoying.

And, really, who could disagree? That would most definitely be annoying, especially if I didn’t die and The Roommate didn’t think to check on me for a week or so, which I wouldn’t put past him.

So I got up and took two extra-strength Aspirin and went back to bed, as one does. Well this one does, anyway.

In the morning I did lots of googling of thrombocytopenia, and none of it was terribly reassuring. But did I go to the hospital? The hell I did. Last time I went, some triage nurse tried to lecture me about coming to the hospital about Covid symptoms when I was unmarried and didn’t have any children at home. Guess who’s never had a roommate in her life, and shut up very quickly when I told her my Roommate worked in a hospital? Anyway, it was the very definition of de-incentivizing.

And it turns out my local emergency room is the busiest in Eastern Ontario and a full third of their Emergency patients test positive for Covid. Which I did not want to do, even if I’m pretty sure I had it already at least once.

Next morning the pinching varicose feeling began to recede, but the numb, leg warmer feeling began to replace it and slowly creep up the leg. This, my friends, this bothered me.

Peripheral neuropathy can fuck all the way off, once and for all.

It seemed to me that the weakened and occasionally-severed nerves in my right leg were the weak point in my system, and the vaccine had caused some issues because god knows I ain’t going back to working retail! It wasn’t overuse causing that pain OR the numbness.

I made an appointment at the local clinic for a telehealth call with a doctor, and figured 48 hours was an acceptable wait time, till I looked at the email again and realized it was in a week and 48 hours, and that was in no way acceptable, so I called the provincial telehealth line instead and got through to a nurse in a few minutes. She asked me a bunch of questions and then told me to get to the emergency room within four hours, so I did that last Monday, expecting a CAT scan or MRI of the leg and possibly a brain scan too. Because this ain’t my first rodeo I packed an overnight bag with a couple of changes of underwear, my toothbrush, and my laptop and two books, and set out. The Roommate did not offer me a ride although he was sitting right there and The Sister did even tho she lives in a nother part of town. As it was I took the bus.

Emergency room sagas are long and generally boring (at least, all the ones that end well are) and this was no exception. After three hours or so I was seen by a doctor who checked the leg by hand, made me straighten and bend it, pushing against his hand, tested my reflexes (yup, still impaired on the right side as it has been since before Duran Duran had a comeback), ordered a blood test, and after the results came back, told me I did not have thrombocytopenia and could go home, which I did. No diagnosis at all. I asked, and was told “Well, probably some muscle effect. We don’t really know what these vaccines do yet.”

Being me, of course, I hit Google and I hit it hard.

Vaccine-induced peripheral neuropathy.

Turns out it’s a Thing. A Known Thing. I’m assuming that doctor didn’t mention it because he just didn’t want to alarm me, because there’s basically fuckall that can be done about it other than wait and see if it clears up.

Which, fortunately, it has been doing. The tingling slowly dissolved, being replaced by the familiar pinching sensation, and that, my friends, has so far been replaced by nothing at all, which is absolutely best-case-scenario territory as far as I’m concerned.

My theory is that all of it, varicose pinching and all, was the result of an overstimulated immune system attacking the nerves, and that the fading from pain to numbness to fine was just the exact same healing process I’ve been through multiple times before. That’s how vaccine-induced peripheral neuropathy do. Still eating my Omegas, supplementing my B vitamins, and treating my body like the temple to my ego that it is.

So, having been through all of that, here is your takeaway:

Get the fucking vaccine.

Get the first vaccine that is offered to you.

Get the hell out of that vaccine.

Get you some.

Vax. Vax to the Max.

And remember, resistance doesn’t peak until two or more weeks after the dose. Vaccines are extremely effective against their target virus, but even the best vaccine isn’t 100% effective, so continue to take precautions.

Even if your body is invulnerable to a virus, you are still a whole surface of almost two square meters. Things can sit on you without you even knowing. In a pandemic, treat the entire outside world and the surface of your hands and face as if they are coated with raw chicken; it’s a mind game, sure, but it works.

And remember, a pandemic is a terrific excuse to avoid people you’ve never liked.

Let all the stupid people die: when they die, we get their stuff.


Okay, Boomer

4 thoughts on “#AstraZeneca: What a feeling!

  1. I had my first AZ a few weeks ago. Second jab coming up July 1st. Sorry you had such a scary time with it. But it is worth it.

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