I’ve longed for this day, but now it’s here, I’m exhausted and worried.
Exhausted because it’s been months since I’ve left home and I’ve forgotten how difficult it can be to dress and get ready to go out. My partner had a Zoom meeting so couldn’t help me. It took 30 mins to get into my jeans – at least I hadn’t put on any weight – put socks and boots on and make sure I had everything I needed in my bag. Even though my coat was out of the wardrobe and ready for me to put on, I still struggled with getting it on. I had put my bag on the end of the bed and didn’t realise how near the edge it was. It fell to the floor, and I had to grab it from there. More exhaustion and pain.
Navigating my chair through the front door and up the ramp to my car, I already felt tired. Would all this effort be worth it? Would I get my jab? The nurse I spoke with when I booked my appointment asked me about drug allergies. I have several, including one which resulted in a cardiac arrest, so she warned me that the PfizerBiontech jab may not be safe for me. I would need a doctor to assess me at the vaccination hub.
It felt strange driving across London, with almost empty streets. Looking at the people, it was shocking how few were wearing masks. There was a huddle of a dozen young people outside a donut shop. No social distancing and only one person wearing a mask. No wonder the virus rates in London are so high.
Arriving at the hospital, we got a parking space on only our second circuit of the small carpark. I got my chair out of the boot and we looked for signs to the hub. It was so long since I’d been at the hospital, I’d forgotten where the route to where we needed to be. Help from a staff member quickly set us off in the right direction. It was good that everyone inside was wearing masks. The corridors had barriers telling people to keep to the left-hand side, to ensure social distancing. Everywhere was unusually quiet. There were no wards on this level, only admin offices and outpatient departments.
Going into the hub, the noise felt overwhelming. The babble of conversation and names being shouted out was disturbing at first. Everyone I could see was wearing masks. I’d not been in such a crowded space for over a year and have previously avoided busy, crowded places. Social distancing was down to one metre rather than two in the waiting area. The reception desk clerk was a solider, surprising as we were miles from the nearest barracks.
Booking in was swift and easy. I was told that the hub was running 30 minutes late, so settled down to catch up on reading my emails. It reassured me to read a US research study that the PfizerBiontech had a very low rate of adverse reactions.
Meanwhile, my carer was trying to book for his jab. His GP surgery had not given him an appointment. As a frontline care worker, he should have had his jab some weeks back. Eventually he got everything sorted, and it was then time for me to go through to see if I would get my jab. The medical area seemed crowded with little social distancing, except between the desks and between the injection pods. Staff were standing very near each other, as it was the only way they could communicate.
I went through my medical history with a nurse, confirming my allergies and that I wasn’t allergic, as far as I knew, to any of the components of the vaccine. She appeared disbelieving that giving me lignocaine could cause a cardiac arrest, and she hurriedly went over to a doctor to check if I could still have the jab. Yes, came back the reply, I could, but would need to have my epipen available and stay to be checked for 30 minutes after getting the jab, rather than the usual 15 minutes. So relieved.
I quickly rummaged in my bag to find the epipen. Only to discover it wasn’t there. No idea why, as I always had it with me when going out. So many cafes and restaurants don’t label food or know ingredients properly. My nut allergy means I never risk being without at least one epipen nearby. I knew there was one in my car and signaled to my carer to ask him to collect it for me. I found it shocking that I needed to have my epipen with me. Presumably this meant that there was no adrenaline available in the hub. It’s in the middle of a large teaching hospital, A&E wasn’t nearby. Surely there should be some provision for emergencies?
Paperwork completed, I wheeled over to the pod, and the staff there moved everything around so I got some privacy. The person checking my paperwork queried if I was ok to have the injection. She misread my allergy information, thinking it related to one of the vaccine components. I reassured her and rolled up my left sleeve, ready for the injection. I couldn’t get my sleeve high enough on my arm so a medical student – the only person I saw with a name tag – moved it it to the right place. The nurse quickly gave me the jab. I got my sticker and my vaccine card, then was directed to the waiting area, having been told that someone would keep checking on me until I was ok to go home. I declined a drink and biscuit as there were no tables and my grip isn’t strong enough to manage both without dropping one.
I pulled my phone back out of my bag and started reading again. 10 minutes later, no one had checked on me. There was a care assistant or cleaner who was doing the teas and wiping down chairs, but no other staff came to see me. 15 minutes later, still no nurse, 20 minutes later, the same. Luckily, I was feeling absolutely fine. I waited another 10 minutes and then asked the care assistant if it was ok for me to go before a nurse saw me. She told me I could go whenever I was ready, so I wheeled out to join my carer and go home.
The journey home was quick and easy. I was feeling ok, but really exhausted and so pleased to have help to get undressed once I was back in my own space.
As the evening continued, I still didn’t have any side effects from the jab, no headache, no sore arm, no fever or feeling unwell. I felt very relieved and so pleased that I will soon have some protection from this ghastly virus. I’m still concerned about this 12 week delay when the manufacturer recommends 3 weeks, but there is nothing I can do to change that time lag.
In the meantime, having the jab means I can have clients visit me at home, which will really help those people who struggle with using the phone or Zoom. I’m not even thinking about going out. Even when lockdown ends, I’m still going to be very cautious about leaving home again.
Reclaim these streets
The abduction of Sarah Everard happened 2 miles away from my home. Clapham Common is literally just down the road. Having lived in London for many years, I’ve always been aware of issues around women’s safely. Also evey woman I know has had unpleasant experiences with either being followed or approached by strangers who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I was appalled at one of my local male councillors whose response to Sarah’s death has been to promote a petition asking for more lights on the common. Women don’t need more lights to stay safe, we need men to stop behaving in predatory ways towards women.
A couple of years ago I was persistently harassed by a male neighbour who either parked in my allocated disabled bay or blocked my car so I couldn’t get into it. One weekend he blocked the ramp to my flat, leaving me trapped and unable to go out. When I reported these incidents to the police, they did little other than to offer him ‘words of advice’, although he had ‘previous’ for assault. The abuse he yelled at me, threatening to hit me, was recorded when I had called 999 and although a friend had witnessed the harassment, I was told because she wasn’t an ’independent’ witness, no charges would be brought.
I felt badly let down and my trust in the police was diminished.
On Saturday night the very police, whose colleague was charged with Sarah’s abduction and murder, assaulted and arrested women who were paying their respects at her vigil. How can their actions be justified? Why use such disproportionate force? Why didn’t they engage with the women organising the vigil to agree how long it would last? Were they actually looking to deliberately enrage grieving women and arrest them?
Two contrasting photos have been posted on Twitter. They were both taken Saturday, one shows police ’protecting’ male football supporters from opposing fans, the other showing a women at the vigil being violently pulled down to the ground and sat on by police. Why two such different standards?
One woman leaving Sarah’s vigil was flashed at on the common. She reported it to a nearby group of police. A female officer spoke to her, but as she was giving a description of the man, the officer was told by her male colleagues, “No, we’ve had enough tonight with the rioters.” Such responses don’t encourage women to report harassment.
This must change. Women must be believed and supported when they have been harassed or been victims of domestic abuse. Most of all, education for boys should start in schools to teach them how to respect and support girls and women.
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