I am vaccinated today because a stranger appeared in my life when I needed her. Without my “vaccine angel,” I might still be at my laptop every day before sunrise, bleary-eyed, annoyed, gulping black coffee, scrolling frantically through vaccine appointment sites. Or indoors, having long conversations with the dog, afraid to leave my apartment.
I have two of the underlying health conditions on the CDC list and am fortunate I qualified fairly early for the vaccine. My doctor told me to schedule it. I chose Pfizer; the side-effect profile looked more appealing than that of Moderna. I went online to schedule the first shot. Easy, right? Two weeks later, I gave up. Remember when they told us a new batch of appointments would be released on Thursdays, and we could go to multiple websites or call a state number?
As many of you did, I went to the CIC Health website very early my first Thursday morning. There were hundreds of appointments at Fenway and at my second choice, The Reggie Lewis Center. I typed in my personal information, the website updated, and the spots disappeared. I watched and waited. The website updated and more openings appeared. I entered my personal information and the places were gone by the time I finished. This madness continued for hours. Later, I read the online news: all of the appointments were filled by 9:40 a.m. Perhaps there were cancelations. I looked at the website that evening and the next day; I saw a few openings, I tried to get one and just missed, or so it felt. I called the phone number and waited on hold. And waited. And finally hung up and did something more productive with my time: I looked at Facebook.
Early on the second Thursday, my elderly Labrador and I were sitting in a private room at the emergency room at Angell Animal Medical Center. She had signs of lung cancer. The vet tech took her for X-rays and blood tests, returned, examined her, then left again. In between, I scanned vaccine websites. My heart wasn’t in it. Her vet diagnosed bronchitis. While the pharmacist filled the antibiotics, I continued to look. Nothing. I learned later that all the appointments were taken before my dog had her first test.
A friend called to ask whether I would consider going to Israel for the Pfizer vaccine. As Israeli American citizens, we were eligible. But neither of us wanted to fly, unvaccinated, for 12 hours.
A few days later, I checked Boston.com and saw a story about 400 volunteers who schedule vaccine appointments for other people. On the intake form, I stated my preferred vaccine type, location, date and time. I had no idea who these people were or whether I could trust them, but asking for help was preferable to giving up. The review on Boston.com was a positive endorsement. Still, I was careful to avoid providing information that felt too personal.
I never expected to hear anything. Hours later, an email appeared. They received my intake form, and a volunteer would be in touch. A short while later, another email: “Your appointment at Reggie Lewis is confirmed.”
Could this be real, or was it fake? I read the email four times to try to figure out who sent it. It looked official, but I couldn’t tell. Somehow, I ended up speaking with the volunteer who had scheduled it. She said I would receive email confirmation directly from CIC Health. I was having trouble absorbing the idea that a volunteer was spending her time helping me schedule my vaccine. I’m usually the one who takes care of others.
I wasn’t happy with the location. I could take an Uber to Roxbury, but I preferred to walk to the Fenway location. I hesitated to ask her to change the appointment; I did not want to impose on her time. I finally decided to ask and she was kind and patient. She offered several days and times and asked which one I preferred. What a question! I felt so cared for. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had asked my preference about anything vaccine related.
I was under pressure to schedule it around the availability of the neighbor who was planning to take care of my dog. She waited on the phone while I texted them. Later, she texted a photo of herself with her dog. She told me she worked in computers, had a husband and two small children and had not received the vaccine. She wasn’t yet eligible.
I tell everyone I know about Massachusetts COVID Vaccination Help. If you get vaccinated, it’s good for you and for me and for the community.
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