Writing again

A Mistake of Misplaced Trust

It’s NaNoWriMo Day Two, which for me is the second day of “finish my damned draft” month. But I’m writing this rant instead.

November is NaNoWriMo. For me this is the second day of “finish my damned draft” month, but I’ve written less than a hundred words in that. I wrote this instead.

My mistake was looking away from the long scary needle carrying my second dose of Shingrix vaccine as soon as the nurse uncapped it.

I know, everybody looks away. But I am here to tell you: DON’T. If the person administering the shot is not sitting down too, and/or is aiming that needle at the TOP of your shoulder, object quickly and loudly. Before the needle goes in.

I forgot that advice, and now this vaccination is kicking my ass in ways that have pissed me off enough to file a CDC Vaccination Adverse Event Report online. (That’s pretty big. The VAERS process feels designed to make people decide “Eh, I’m feeling lousy, but not so bad that I’m willing to fill out this excruciatingly-detailed multipage form.”)

What happened? Welp, imma tell you.

It started with my long-delayed annual physical. The exam went fine. As part of it, the doctor went through my vaccination history with me. Annual flu done, COVID done, TDap up to date, only thing I needed was a 2nd dose of shingles vaccine, and my luck was in, they had doses on-hand!

Long tangential story. Shingles vaccination was first recommended 7 years ago. My insurance requires I get it from the doctor’s office. Six years in a row, they didn’t have any vaccinein the building. Six times I was told, “We get supplied on Mondays, keep calling every Monday and eventually you should get be able to get in.”

The first time, I believed them and tried several times before being defeated by the call system & app. Five times I replied, “That isn’t a good answer. I can’t call direct, so I would have to come here every Monday. I am not made of that kind of free time.” Last year was Pandemic Year One.

This summer I lucked into the first shot when I went in for a diagnosis on my eczema trifecta. That doctor entered my Covid vax info (yay!) saw I was 7 years past recommended age for getting a shingles shot, and asked if I was reluctant.

I explained. He tracked down the last dose in the building that day for me. I know this because the nurse who came in & sat down next to me mentioned that during the sleeve lifting & swabbing part of the process. I watched the first dose go right into my deltoid muscle where shots belong, nice & centered. WIN!

But I digress.

This time, the nurse came in after the doc and I finished, and some chat about scheduling my fasting blood test ensued. (Fun fact: I only need to fast 8 hrs now, not 12+!) That done, I lift my sleeve, swabbing ensues. Needle gets uncapped.

It’s been a rough few weeks. I’m not up to watching. I. Look. Away.

The shot went in with a deep stabbing pain. Yes, needle, pointy, but shots feel like a poke, not an alarming STAB. The only time I’ve felt pain like that has been during dental work, when the needle full of numbing agent hits or gets too close to a nerve.

So I said, “OW!” and also, “I’ve never had that happen from a regular shot.” The nurse shrugged it off with, “A lot of people say the 2ndshot hurts more.”

That’s when I noticed how much higher than me she was. She was either standing or sitting on the tall stool beside the exam table (I confess, I didn’t look at her feet to see which, I was too shocked by the OW.) I did have to look up and to the side to see her.

And that’s when the reality of my mistake sank in.

Pro tip: never accept a shot in the arm from someone who’s standing or sitting higher than you are. Want to know why? Do a search on SIRVA (Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration)

By then it was too late for me and not worth discussing with someone who had already dimissed my pain. I left the office, did the “use the arm as much as possible” routine and hoped for the best.

I’m still hoping, but I’m also ANGRY.

Most of my post-shot symptoms are on the “common” list: soreness in the injected arm, body aches, fatigue, lack of appetite & a pounding headache. All very ordinary viral vaccine reactions for me. All responding nicely to Advil & hydration.

But the sharp pain at the site hasn’t gone away, and tingling down my arm started within a few hours of the shot. Those aren’t normal post-vaxx symptoms. Waking up multiple times with a numb left arm all the way from shoulder to fingers? Definitely not the usual. Nothing worth the risks of an ER or urgent care, but no fun, lemmee tell ya.

I’ve had bursitis in enough other joints to recognize the pain & tingling from inflammation near a joint impinging on associated nerves– but I can’t know if this is a Major Situation Developing or only a Painful Hassle for at least a few days. The weird nerve effects could be caused by injection site swelling alone. Becuase it was done too high, and too close to the nerves. I hope that’s all it is, because damage caused by vaccine getting into the shoulder bursa could affect my left arm permanently.

Thus, I am pissed off. Partly at myself, but yes, partly at the nurse who stabbed my arm nearly 2 inches higher than she should’ve done. Because of that, I have to sit here not only hurting, but also worrying for several days.

My mistake wasn’t getting vaxxed. My mistake was forgetting the person doing the shot might not do it RIGHT.

And that is on me. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. I should’ve kept watching. Fingers crossed, a few days of pain and stress are all the price I pay for my error. You can bet I will NOT look away next time, and that I will insist on my health concerns being taken seriously.

I urge you to do the same. Do not look away. Advocate for your safe care better than I did for mine.

That would make me feel a little better about this wretched experience.

This was 1000 words and I’m counting it as writing.

That’s all for now. Until later.

By K. M. Herkes

Author, gardener, and cat wrangler.