My Covid Story:
Yasmina’s First Day Vaccinating Reminds us Healthcare Workers are Human
The cold, brisk air was biting at my fingertips and painting my ears faintly red. Luckily, my tactical pants and boots kept me warm as I trekked to Campus Center — the location of the University’s vaccine clinic. Passing through burgundy doors, I welcomed the blast of heat from the main concourse. Proceeding down to the basement level, I signaled a quick hello to a coworker and entered the post-vaccination waiting room. The creaking wooden floors, the brutalist architecture, and the concrete ceilings were all familiar; the array of strong feelings that swept over me were not.
Prior to my first shift at the vaccine clinic, emotions had been brewing from 11 months of seclusion. At that specific moment, I felt mostly anxiety and worry about the effectiveness of the vaccine I had received two weeks prior. Thankfully, the overwhelm quickly dissipated as I settled at the observation table. Another Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) welcomed me, introducing one another by exchanging names and our respective year of study. Each subsequent shift brought new faces, new greetings, and shared conversations along the same lines, albeit with different details. The type of small talk and chatter that I had previously taken for granted brought an unexpected warmth and comfort.
Freshly vaccinated patients waddled into the waiting room, sporting sparkly silver band-aids and sitting in the next available seat. Some swung their arms in wide circles, hoping to alleviate the impending soreness from their shots. Others sat cross-legged, perusing a newspaper or well-loved paperback, or swiping to check their phone.
Months earlier, this spectacle may have seemed mundane. Now, it meant everything: hope for return to normalcy. Lines stretched from the basement floor, up past the escalators, finally teetering out to the parking garage. Wait times extended from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. The number of people taking it upon themselves to receive the vaccine, despite personal concerns and whispers about its novelty or how quickly it was produced, was uplifting. Patient conversations unfolded with excitement. Words were spoken with bright-wide eyes and goodbyes with crinkled crows feet — a tell-tale sign of smiling behind their masks. As the academic year ended and I began working daily at the clinic, faces and stories started to resemble one another. Exasperated expressions of impatience to see daughters, sons, and grandchildren, as well as gratitude and relief to be with friends, family, and colleagues once again.
The auditorium was filled with a contagious sense of hope and my favorite sight of crinkled eyes revealed rising relaxation as we gained assurance of vaccine safety.
Written by Yasmina Berkat
Edited by Dr. Jacki Hart