I’m not a fan of clichés, but I’m going to start this weeks blog with one. My last seven days have been quite the emotional roller-coaster. I have gone from uncontrollable fear to unadulterated highs and it’s all down to finally booking my COVID vaccination.
I’ve been entitled to have my jab for about four months now but I have resolutely avoided organising it. Whenever my colleagues, friends or family have asked if I’ve had it, I’ve increasingly sounded like an absolute passionate conspiracy theorist. I’m not. But that’s exactly what it has sounded like.
“I’m just holding off for a bit longer, see what the research says.”
“I have a healthy immune system. I’ll let others get it first.”
“BILL GATES IS A SATANIC PAEDOPHILE WHO WANTS TO INSERT TRACKING CHIPS INTO OUR ARMS!”
You see, I don’t believe any of this, but I was willing to say anything to hide the fact that I have a really bad fear of needles. It actually has an official term called ‘trypanophobia.’ However, my friends sympathetically refer to it as, ‘being a massive pussy.’
I’ve always had a fear of needles for as far back as I can remember. I was the shortest kid in my year – the runt of the litter. So the school nurse would routinely refer me to have blood tests to figure out the bizarre mystery of my lack of height. She would genuinely look at my 5’3 father and 5’2 mother in the eyes while having these conversations. I mean, I’m no medical expert, but even I know that these two diminutive humans were never going to create a Shaquile O’Neal.
I remember one particular visit to the hospital when they put needles in both my arms and legs at the SAME time. It was horrific. The nurse in charge tried to calm me by saying, “Once they’re in, we have a PlayStation you can play on.” Even at eight I wasn’t stupid enough to think that this was a good deal. Four hours of trauma that would linger with me for the rest of my life for a go on ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater?’ No thanks, lady.
But alas, my time was running out. I knew my list of excuses were seriously depleted and that I was going to get it eventually. So on Sunday evening, I bit the bullet and booked it.
The appointment was booked for Tuesday morning. Now, from the moment I booked it and every moment leading up to actually getting the vaccination, all I was filled with was stomach churning thoughts about getting it. I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t sleep properly. It was horrible. My every living second occupied by the thought of my skin being aggressively pierced by some middle aged woman just wanting to finish her shift so she could get home.
With my nerves shattered and my body exhausted Tuesday arrived.
My usual morning routine usually consists of having a cup of tea or two, reading a couple of chapters of the book I’m reading or scrolling mindlessly on my phone. This morning was different. There was no tea. There was no reading. There was no scrolling. There was however excessive diarrhoea. Just hours of fear induced defecation. At one point, with the clock ticking down and the time of my appointment getting ever nearer, I found myself genuinely tearing up during one of my visits to the bathroom. The only sound filling the silence between plops was my pathetic cries of, “I can’t do this.”
I did however muster the courage to wipe and leave and just a mere fifteen minutes later from having a shit based breakdown I was stood at the door to the clinic.
I was welcomed by a young man at the door who I dutifully informed that I was there for my vaccination. I must have looked terrified because he quickly smirked and said, “Scared?” I was worried that everyone at the clinic would be cold and would just think I was a massive coward, but his warm smile put me at ease instantly. I smiled back and with our blossoming friendship cemented, he continued to reassure me.
“Are you scared of the needle itself or what’s in it?”
“Oh no. I trust the science. It’s just the needle. I have this silly longstanding fear.”
“Mate, you won’t even feel it going in.”
“I’M USED TO THAT SENTENCE.”
My top lip sweating and my sense of friendship completely overestimated he went from being welcoming to awkward in just a matter of seconds. Without saying a further word to me, he handed me a document and requested I take a seat.
So like a man who had just inappropriately joked about penetration, I slowly made my way to the waiting area.
I looked down at the piece of paper I had been given and saw the number ’49’ scribbled at the top. Then, a nurse appeared at the door just in front of me and bellowed it out. For a second, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I just stared back at her.
“If I don’t move she won’t know it’s me.” My internal monologue muttered.
“This can be my new life now, I’ll just sit here forever.” I continued like the moron I am.
However, without warning, my legs took control and before I knew it, I found myself walking towards her.
This was it.
I sat down. Inhaling gigantic breaths and looking like I was about to faint, I cry-whispered, “Get it over with, please… ” She then preceded to read out a number of generic mandated questions which my voice decided to answer in the same tone as a teenage boy in the midst of his voice breaking.
With the administration over, I closed my eyes.
I had literally felt nothing and with the adrenaline and relief coarsing through my veins I misjudged my reply.
“Jesus FUCKING Christ. Is that it?!”
My voice now back to normal but my eyes now widened like I had done a fist full of cocaine, I stared intensely at the nurse like I was on some sort of vaccination high.
“CAN I HAVE MY SECOND ONE NOW!?”
The nurse was clearly becoming a little bit weirded out by both my volume and requests for more vaccinations. She requested that I go sit in what can only be described as a holding pen. This, obviously, was standard procedure, but I couldn’t help feel that I would have been sent somewhere to calm down regardless.
After twenty minutes of sitting, it was now time for me to leave. With the last remnants of confidence still in my system I left the building with a strut and jumped astride my bike. My feet touched the pedals, and then, almost as if it had been waiting in the shadows, it was back. That familiar worrying voice.
“Oi Paul?! What if you get those severe side effects?”