Covid Chronicles – Maderna Round Two

This is Joe Keenan, author of Covid Long Haulers. In this edition of my blog, I will be sharing with you my experience in getting my second Maderna vaccine shot and its effect on my Long Covid symptoms.

On April 22, 2021 I was lucky enough to receive my second Maderna vaccine injection. Here in Colorado the availability of the vaccine since my first on March 24th has vastly improved. For my first vaccine injection, I had to drive a few hours from my home to get a shot. But for my second shot I was able to locate a pharmacy just minutes from my house with no more than 72 hours notice. The improved availability of the vaccine in my state is a testament to the hard work of many health care workers, logistics personnel, pharmacy staff and volunteers that have dedicated their time and skill to helping others. Thank you for your effort, it is appreciated.

My second injection was scheduled for noon at the Walgreens in the University Hills suburb. The check in for the vaccine required some basic paperwork to be filled in which mostly covered demographic information. The time to check in was less than 5 minutes and the staff seemed very experienced in processing the documentation. I was asked to wait in a make shift waiting room until being called for by the pharmacist. After waiting for around ten minutes, I was called into a room which consisted of a chair and a number of cabinets. I was requested to sit in the chair and to pick an arm for the vaccine. Being left handed I always pick my right arm so that my dominant arm is not sore from the shot. The injection was administered quickly and without any pain. After the shot, I was requested to stay in the waiting room for fifteen minutes to ensure that there would be no allergic reaction to the vaccine. All was good and so I went home knowing that any reaction to the shot would come later.

Reaction to the first injection lasted a few days and included headaches, aches, pains and fatigue. The second shot gave me a much more intense reaction that lasted for almost six days. I diarized my experience post second injection which included the following;

Injection plus two hours. For the first couple of hours, my arm was sore at the injection site but no other notable side effects.

Injection plus six hours. At this point my injection arm was very sore and stiff. My body was feeling very flush and hot all over with a low order headache. On top of this and to make things so much better, I was experiencing stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Injection plus twelve hours. At midnight on the day of the second shot, I was having trouble sleeping and was experiencing flu like symptoms, aches and pains and a headache. It was at this point that I decided to take Advil to try and relieve some of the side effects.

Injection plus eighteen hours. After very little sleep, I was feeling very achy and fluish. My stomach was still very upset and I continued to have diarrhea and a full body flush of heat. As the second day started, I took to the couch and prepared to ride out the side effects.

Injection plus twenty four hours. After twenty four hours my side effects were in full force. I would best describe the next twelve hours as arthritic and painful. My body jumped from feverish heat to bone aching chills. My cramps and diarrhea continued and I was for all intense and purpose confined to the couch. I would more fully describe the my bodies reaction to be similar to the actual virus.

Injection plus forty eight hours. On the second day following the injection, my body continued to be very sore and I was very tired from not sleeping. My cramps had subsided and the diarrhea had eased. I found myself on the couch again the whole day to ride out the side effects. I took Advil on a regular basis to help with the aches but in general just looked to rest to feel better.

Injection plus seventy two hours. After three days of couch rest, the aches and pains started to subside. Not to zero by any means but the horrible arthritic feeling had passed and now I was just feeling sore. The full body flush of heat and chills still remained and was probably my most lingering side effect. The stomach cramps and diarrhea eased but were still present three days later.

From the third day until the sixth day, I continued to feel effects of the vaccine. The most predominant being the full body flush of heat. The heat would sometimes upset my stomach and make me sweat. I was able to return to work but I was not feeling my best.

In my previous blogs, I make mention to the fact that Covid survivors might have more severe side effects to the vaccine that those that have never had the virus in the first place. As a control to my post vaccine experience, coincidently I had one other family member vaccinated the same day who also previously had Covid and one friend that was vaccinated on the same day that did not previously have Covid. Interestingly, the post vaccination experience for the first forty eight hours is very similar. The main difference being that two people that had Covid previously (myself included) had side effects that lasted a few more days than the person that had not been infected with Covid previously. In other words, those infected previously might have a slightly more impactful reaction and for a longer duration to the vaccine than someone that had not been previously infected.

So was it worth it? Did the second vaccine help my Long Covid? In short yes. Very much. This blog is being written two weeks after the vaccine. I waited this time to be able to properly evaluate my post vaccine wellbeing. Since overcoming the side effects of the second shot, three out of five of my remaining Long Covid symptoms have improved. The symptoms that I have immediately noticed an improvement on were fatigue, brain fog, numb toes. My cough and breathing have improved but not the level that I had pre Covid and I still have random muscle pains that began with the Covid infection. I measure my physical improvements with a simple pedometer. In the past two months, I have increased my steps per day from two thousand to eight thousand daily. This is my measure of how my fatigue has improved. Brain fog is harder to measure but in general I am able to remember things better and my acid test for this was when I read a contract the other day and I was able to remember the clauses on the previous pages. My numb leg and toes has vastly improved and the wonderful team at Littleton Hospital physical therapy have helped me immensely with stretches and strength training.

Last week, I had an appointment with a pulmonologist. I have waited for over four months to get this appointment. As you can appreciate, pulmonologist s are in short supply currently with the Covid outbreak. The relevant outcome of this appointment was that I still have three scars on my lungs from my Covid pneumonia. These scars are impacting my recovery because as I try and increase my physical activity I am struck with a tightening of my chest or a cough. This mostly happens now under excursion or when I increase the level of difficulty of my exercises. The pulmonologist explained that the bodies response to the scars on my lungs was to protect them when under stress and therefore create a pseudo asthmatic response to slow the activity. This is why I am still having shortness of breath when exerting myself and a tight chest. The doctor prescribed an Advair puck to take twice a day to open my lungs to more air intake and to improve the asthmatic effect I was experiencing. This medication has made a marked improvement on my normal walking but I still feel constrained when doing more tedious work.

In summary, the second vaccination had sever side effects for me, but the overall benefit to my Long Covid symptoms makes the experience worth while. I highly recommend that every one get their vaccination to eliminate this virus from our day to day lives. And for those that are suffering from Long Covid this might even be a way to improve your symptoms.

Stay strong.

Joe Keenan

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