The vaccine. It’s all anyone talks about these days. Who’s had it. Who is getting it. It’s a nice change from the ‘Who do you know who got Covid?’ conversation that dominated the last year. Go to a Valencian hospital and each person working on you will assure you that they’ve been inoculated.
This accomplishes two things. One – there really is a vaccine that none of the general population under 80 years old has seen hide nor hair of in Valencia. And two – that the person changing your bandage, putting EKG pads on you, or messing with your iv, is protected. I’ll admit, its strangely comforting. Every person who told me this the past couple days, as they did whatever task they were doing to me, had me responding with ‘Oh that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you’. And I was genuinely happy. It’s as though they’re lighting the way for the rest of us.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Valencian hospitals since the start of the pandemic. I’ve seen the terror, exhaustion, and frustration in the eyes of so many health workers. This past week, I see that is starting to change.
After telling me they had been vaccinated, nurses would actually touch my shoulder to comfort me. One squeezed my hand. Non-medical touch. Their voices were softer through their masks. As though a light blanket of relief had now fallen over us all. The frenetic energy was not pinging off the walls. It was so nice. So normal, as to be abnormal. They didn’t seem afraid like before. Afraid of the patients they were dedicated to helping. And I found I was less afraid. Less stressed when looking at the heart monitors, then back at their faces above their masks trying to gauge their reactions to determine how serious it was. They provided comfort to me. Comfort they’d had to keep in reserve for themselves for the past year.
We read the Lugo news now. Getting a head start of understanding our new community Starting this next week, they will begin vaccinating people from 50-55 yrs old. Each autonomous community manages and regulates healthcare for their citizens. Galicia has the vaccination delivery dialled in better than Valencia, it seems. Sure, they have less people up there, but they are delivering every dose they get. Instead of starting at people with last names beginning with the letter A, they randomly selected H. So by the time we move, the letter F will have come around. It will be our turn.
And, after these past few days of seeing the faces of the nurses and Dr, I know just how I’ll feel after I get the jab. The relief of all reliefs. Not because its the perfect vaccine. Nor the answer to every health concern I now have. But because the weight of the fear will be lifted. That heaviness that makes you lean away from people who get too close. Crossing to the other side of the street to walk on the less busy sidewalk. Measuring a line through a crowd, or abandoning an errand because there are just too many people without masks.
It wasn’t until the nurse squeezed my shoulder on Friday afternoon that I realized how the lack of touch of other people has impacted me. Hugging friends. Kissing cheeks. Squeezing hands. A year without it has all of a sudden become a weight I didn’t know I was carrying.
There is a senior home near where we live. On any given day, you can walk by and see people standing at the fence surrounding it. Inside the fence will be old folks in wheel chairs. Their loved ones talking to them over the fence. There is a plastic marque set up for rainy days, too. The people in these homes know the value of touch, more than most of us. And the pain of missing it. The reassuring squeeze of the hand from a family member. They’ve lived without it for far too long.
I’m not discounting the dangers of the variants. They’re all spreading like wildfire in Spain. Jeff and I can get Covid again, too. And I don’t imagine the second time around would be less damaging than the first. But, over the last few days I’ve had the physical comfort of hope. It’s so close I can close my eyes and feel its touch. And I’ll never forget that hand on my shoulder, after all this time, telling me to just relax. It’s going to be OK. Now, I believe it will.