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Do you ever look back on your life and think of all the things that didn’t happen? Sometimes when we do this, it’s with regrets about dreams that didn’t come true or unfulfilled goals. Lately, I’ve been thinking about some unfortunate things that fortunately didn’t happen to me and counting my blessings.

Although I got measles, mumps and chicken pox as a child, I never got smallpox. I remember being taken to the Annville office of “old Doc Brubaker” to receive my smallpox vaccination before starting grade school. My parents and other relatives actually had me looking forward to this appointment, telling me I would be getting a “flower” on my arm. They asked if I wanted a rose or a carnation and showed me their vaccination scars, which did sort of resemble flowers. The shot hurt, but at least I had a positive outlook about it. And I didn’t get smallpox.

There was no such build-up when I got my polio shots — I think I received a series of three shots in first or second grade. Then, in fifth grade I had to get a booster polio shot because the father of a boy in my classroom who lived on a nearby farm had died of polio. By then, I’d seen pictures of people in iron lungs and children who needed to wear braces and walk with crutches. I sure was glad I didn’t get polio.

A few years later, I dropped pointy lawn shears into my foot. It was a painful injury with a scar that still remains. Doc Brubaker closed up the wound with “butterfly strips” and gave me a tetanus shot, so I wouldn’t develop lockjaw. Being a gal who has always liked to talk, I was relieved not to have to worry about immovable jaws — or worse.

When my dad went into a nursing home two years before his death, I decided I should get a flu shot for the first time. I didn’t want to risk inadvertently carrying influenza to him or other residents at that facility. It seemed a small price to pay and I’ve continued getting seasonal flu shots ever since then. I know how bad I would’ve felt if my dad had caught the flu from me.

My dad already felt bad enough in his latter days thanks to a painful case of shingles. He was haunted by ongoing pain from it for the remainder of his life. My brother and I decided shingles was something we didn’t want to get. Both of us received shingles shots when they became available. A few years later, it was determined that a different type of shingles vaccine involving two shots would provide better protection. This vaccine was in short supply, so I went onto a waiting list at my doctor’s office. I got my first shot last December and will get my second one in April. It’s a relief to know that shingles will be unlikely to torment me moving forward.

Time For Another Vaccine

Now COVID-19 has become a major concern worldwide. It’s a scary disease because of its unpredictability. Some people don’t even know they have it, while other people die from it. Yet another group of COVID-19 sufferers survive only to develop troublesome symptoms that appear months later.

Dennis and I resolved early on that, due to our ages and health conditions, we wanted to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus. We wore masks and maintained social distance in public, and have mostly stayed home and kept to ourselves over the past year. Dennis has worked from home at our dining room table since last March.

It hasn’t been an enjoyable lifestyle, but we also worried about what would happen to our livestock if we became incapacitated and were unable to care for them. The thought of carrying a potentially deadly virus to our friends and relatives further motivated us to follow COVID-19 mitigation efforts. When we heard there were vaccines to protect against this awful disease, we knew we wanted to get vaccinated.

We learned that some folks didn’t feel well following their vaccinations due to minor side effects that only lasted a day or two. We talked about not getting vaccinated at the same time, so hopefully one of us would always be able to handle chores.

Dennis got a vaccine appointment almost immediately at our local hospital, because he already sees a doctor who is part of their health care system. My doctor isn’t affiliated with any hospital group, so what followed for me was a frustrating period.

I was eventually able to register on the local hospital’s COVID-19 vaccination waiting list. I also signed onto waiting lists for two other health care groups. Meanwhile, I checked websites of nearby pharmacies and grocery stores, but their appointments were always filled. After 40 days on the local hospital’s waiting list, I was contacted to make an appointment for two days later.

I now have my first COVID-19 vaccine shot, with an appointment for the second one. Dennis has had both shots. We feel blessed and relieved to have received our “shot of hope.”

Hopefully, COVID-19 is now one more unfortunate thing that won’t happen to us.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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