Four weeks ago in the late afternoon, I was breezily chatting on my cell speakerphone with my daughter and daughter-in-law when a text from a friend came through. She alerted me that a vaccination site just three blocks from my house was calling for folks to get Moderna shots as they had left over from scheduled appointments that day.

I hastily hung up on my family and called to my husband, who had already received his first dose elsewhere, that if I got to the site immediately, there was a chance I could be immunized, even though my phase was still months away. We rushed to the car, although it was easily walkable, to be sure I had a chance to receive my first dose. On the way, I texted others I knew needed immunizations in hopes of sharing the opportunity.

When we arrived, my heart started pounding and my hands started shaking. I thanked a friend who helped organize the event and moved to the back of the short line. I was impressed with how quickly it moved, and before I knew it, I was speaking with a doctor about what to expect in the coming days after the immunization. She noticed my shaking hands and asked if I was okay. In response, I started crying and told her I did not realize how grateful I would feel when it came time for me to get immunized. She smiled and said she would hug me if she could. We shared a sweet moment, and then I was ushered to the next station to receive my shot.

The process was uneventful, and I hardly felt the needle stick. I smiled, profusely thanked the technician, and headed to another area to wait the prescribed 15 minutes to be sure I did not have a reaction. There were people there I knew, and it was wonderful to catch up with them during this joyful time. Everyone’s spirits were high and there was talk of the life changing significance of the moment. Eventually, I headed to the car, told my husband all was well, and we headed home.

I spent about three days with a sore arm; each day it felt a little better. But I carried a tremendous amount of guilt over that week because I was immunized when others were not—friends who are teachers or other essential workers, and people who are immunocompromised, or have other health issues. This weighed heavily on me. Finally, the weight started to lift when I saw an interview with Dr. Fauci where he spoke about the importance of using every dose, and that it was better to immunize those outside of the current phase than to waste vaccine.

Earlier this week, I received the call that I was able to get my second dose. I was excited and nervous while waiting for my 1:30pm appointment.

I arrived at the immunization clinic about 15 minutes early and followed the same routine as the first time. Check in. Review paperwork. Talk to the doctor about possible reactions to the injection and how to treat them. Then I stood in line for about 10 minutes waiting for my turn.

This time, I was able to initially hold my emotions in check. The technician introduced herself, asked me which arm I wanted the shot in, and told me to take a deep breath and then slowly exhale. I did not even feel the injection. I focused on the sign in front of me. It said "Station #2" (my favorite number) and the phrase “Dose of Hope” was emblazoned on it. At that point, the tears peaked over my lower eyelid; I am not sure the technician even noticed.

As I walked down the hallway to the observation area, I was overcome. This second dose provided me with hope—hope to return to seeing, hugging, and holding my daughter and daughter-in-law without fear, to resume social activities which feed my soul, to return to participating in theatre and presenting about suicide prevention and best practices language around mental health.

My soul is filled with hope today, but also sadness. Losing my mom to COVID complications changed my life. I wish she were still here. I wish she were able to share in this hope with me.

Kimberly A. Starr © 2021

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash