Lauren Jones: ‘My shot of hope’ | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Lauren Jones: ‘My shot of hope’

I would take anything and do anything to make sure the horrendous pain my mind and body endured from this virus never happens again.

Hope.

It’s just about the only thing some of us still have after the pandemic took everything else.

It’s taken me nine months, and many hours of therapy, to understand that I can’t fault other people for not understanding what it’s like to have COVID-19, or to be a COVID-19 long-hauler.

I can’t get angry at people who live their lives like nothing ever happened, when I’m still trying to put mine back together.

It was the hand I was dealt, and I thank God every day that I never folded.

I’m blessed to be alive, while at the same time heartbroken for those who weren’t as lucky.

Many of them never had the chance to get vaccinated.

They never had their shot of hope.

But, as this dreadful pandemic wears on, that has changed for the rest of us, the survivors who have made it this far.

There is no shortage of shots, and there are plenty of places to roll up your sleeve and get it.

Yet, here we are.

People are still testing positive for COVID-19, and people are still dying from it.

We have been down this road before. The journey has been gut-wrenching, and if we don’t do something soon the destination won’t be any better.

This highly contagious delta variant is spreading across the globe, and it is attacking our most vulnerable communities: those who are unvaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of the U.S. population hasn’t had at least one vaccine dose.

It is terrifying to know a target is on their back and the virus is patiently waiting to strike.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

The second my teenage daughters were old enough to get vaccinated, they did.

The shots save lives.

And if you were to get the virus, it can reduce the severity of any illness.

Like all things in life, there are exceptions, but science doesn’t lie.

I’ve heard from hundreds of people who simply won’t get it, or don’t want to.

Some of my dear friends fall into that category.

It is not my job to change their mind, or yours, but I’m blessed with the opportunity to share my story, and maybe that will encourage someone to change their mind.

I know I’m not a doctor or a medical expert, but know what COVID-19 is about, and I promise you — you don’t want it.

I would take anything and do anything to make sure the horrendous pain my mind and body endured from this virus never happens again.

Sure, you may get it and be fine.

But, you may not, like me.

Or you could end up like nearly 700,000 Americans and millions around the word who have died.

Life isn’t guaranteed, but there are steps we can take to change it for the better — if not for ourselves, then for those around us.

When I decided to get vaccinated in March, every risk was outweighed by the reward of knowing I would have an extra layer of protection if I came face to face with the devil himself again.

First Pfizer dose

It had been four months since I tested positive for COVID-19, and through all of the excruciating ups and downs since then, getting vaccinated marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, focused on my health.

When I walked into the Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic to get the Pfizer vaccine, I was greeted by an assembly line of health care workers, checking people in, getting their insurance cards and information, and sending them on their way to get vaccinated.

It was a well-oiled machine.

I was nervous, but I lived through the horror of having COVID-19 and knew any possible reaction I would have to the vaccine would never live up to the virus itself.

And I was right.

I couldn’t even feel the first shot.

It was in and out before I knew it, and I was on my way to the waiting area where I sat for 15 minutes to be monitored for any reaction.

By the time I made it home my head was already throbbing, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I took a nap in the same room I spent 17 days in quarantine months before.

I noticed my shortness of breath was slightly more noticeable after I got my first shot, but after a few days it improved.

I also was achy following my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

This was one of the few symptoms I did not have during my battle with COVID-19.

While I waited to get my second dose of the vaccine, my long-hauler symptoms persisted.

Debilitating migraines, shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue and the newest one: hair loss.

About two weeks before my first shot, and four months after I tested positive for COVID-19, my hair started falling out.

First gradually, then in clumps.

My neurologist, Brian M. Plato, D.O., at Norton Neuroscience Institute, told me hair loss is a symptom some of his long-hauler patients have reported, and he recommended that I try prenatal vitamins.

I followed orders, did my part, and waited for my brain and body to follow suit.

Norton Infectious Diseases Institute Long-term COVID-19 Care Clinics

You’ll get a specific diagnosis and referral to the appropriate specialty, such as neurology, pulmonology, heart/vascular, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health — whatever you need.

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I had heard from other long-haulers who said some of their symptoms went away after they were fully vaccinated.

This was all I needed to keep me going for the next 21 days.

Second Pfizer shot

The same well-oiled machine was waiting for me.

My same broken body was, too. I hadn’t been feeling great leading up to the big day. When it rains, it pours, right?

To be on the safe side I got tested for COVID-19 before my shot, and my test came back negative, so through the sniffles and fatigue I drove back to the vaccine clinic, rolled up my sleeve and got my second dose.

I wouldn’t be fully vaccinated for another couple weeks as by body’s immune response made antibodies in response to the vaccine. But when the nurse handed me my proof of vaccination card, I just sat there, the last four months flashing before my eyes.

What a journey it had been, and how grateful I was for the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Like the first shot, I had a headache by the time I got home, and I also had an upset stomach.

I was exhausted, and spent most of the day in bed.

It took a few days to feel like my (long-hauler) self again, but as quickly as it hit me, any side effects I had from the vaccine were gone.

Any worries I had about a possible reaction from the vaccine were gone.

The hope I had for a better tomorrow, a new beginning and a healthier life, were more present than ever before.

This was my shot of hope, and boy did I need it.

It’s been months since I’ve been fully vaccinated, and slowly some of my long-hauler symptoms have faded away.

My hair eventually stopped falling out, my shortness of breath was tolerable and most days it wasn’t noticeable. My migraine symptoms have become somewhat regulated.

I still struggle with brain fog, some days terribly, but I find hope in how far I’ve come, not how far I have left to go.

I passed that hope onto my 13- and 14-year old daughters, who are also fully vaccinated.

They’ve walked this road with me, many times lighting my way, and I couldn’t be prouder of them for their strength, their courage and their decision to do what they felt was right for their own health.

A decision we all have, and we should all respect.

That’s another journey, for another day.


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