One word: Hope.
For the past 10 months, I have looked into the eyes of my colleagues and friends with their mask-covered faces, and I have seen fear, worry, fatigue, sadness and disheartenment.
Please understand this is not about health care workers being physically tired; this is about us being emotionally exhausted by the number of deaths we have had to witness in less than a year.
This is about going home after a long shift trying to process the death of another person we could not save because of this virus.
This is about mourning for the families who have lost a loved one to this deadly virus.
This is about doctors, nurses, advanced practitioners, respiratory therapists and many other health care workers feeling the strain of not being able to save the hundreds of thousands of people who have succumbed to COVID-19.
This is about all of us being concerned for our families, our friends, ourselves and our communities.
Over the past week, I have watched as the looks in our eyes have changed and listened as our conversations have become more optimistic. I see the light, joy, excitement and hopeful promise in peoples’ eyes as they proudly display their pictures of getting vaccinated and share selfies while wearing an “I GOT MY COVID-19 VACCINE” sticker. We finally feel that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, and we are eager for this nightmare to end. We finally have hope.
I believe one of the reasons there are still nonbelievers of this pandemic is because the virus isn’t visible to the human eye. It is easier to deny or dismiss that which we cannot see. Make no mistake, however: This is all very real, and we are fighting a war. This war may not look like what we come to think of when we hear the word war, but it is nothing less than that.
The lives of millions of people around the world have been changed by this vicious foe. We have had millions of casualties along the way, and many of those who have been infected and harmed are still battling symptoms long after being infected.
It is time for this war to come to an end.
We are now armed with the strongest weapon against this virus. We are armed with a vaccine that will help us win this war. And while this is only the beginning, the tide is finally turning, and we will win this battle. But we all must do our part.
I received the vaccine Dec. 17. As a nurse, I know getting inoculated is the right thing to do, but this decision did not come without a measure of trepidation. It is a new vaccine, and being one of the first to receive it did not come without some anxiety.
I am empathetic to others being apprehensive for similar reasons. However, I have trust in the science behind the development of the vaccine. I know that the messenger RNA technology used to develop this vaccine has been around for almost a decade, and it has been studied over those years, showing safe use. I know that while it seems like a quickly developed vaccine, the foundation had already been created, allowing for its expeditious rollout.
After receiving the vaccine, I had mild muscle tenderness at the injection site, which is common for any intramuscular injection such as a tetanus shot, influenza vaccine, hepatitis vaccine, etc.
I experienced no other symptoms. The next day I was back to work, and by the following day the muscle soreness was nearly gone. Some of my peers have reported having a slight headache, but no serious reactions.
Please understand that if you feel slightly ill after any vaccination shot, the vaccine is not making you sick. You feel ill because your immune system is recognizing the components of the vaccine as being foreign to your body.
Your immune system then becomes active, developing a series of actions within your body to create immunity against that foreign protein.
The muscle soreness, headache, fever, achy feeling, etc., you might experience as a side effect is actually caused by your immune system doing exactly what it is intended to do. That means it is working!
So why did I get the COVID-19 vaccine? The list is actually quite long but here are a few of my reasons:
I did it because I believe in science.
I did it for myself.
I did it for my family.
I did it for my friends and co-workers.
I did it for my patients.
I did it for all of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
I did it for their families who must go on without them.
I did it for all of those “long-haulers” still fighting symptoms.
I did it for my community.
I did it to be armed in this fight.
I did it because I, like everyone else right now, am tired of living this way and would like for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
I did it because I want to be an active partner in the solution to make this all happen. I did it because this is the answer to ending this nightmare.
I did it because having a feeling of hope feels so much better than what we all have been experiencing since March.
I did if for all of you. And I hope and pray you will do it for me, too. We need each other now more than ever.
This finally is our chance — and this is our shot.
Nikkee Asashon is an intensive care unit nurse in Lancaster County.