Anya Bhargava '21 recounts her experience receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in the spring edition of Steward Ink.
I knew that it would eventually be my turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the first vaccine I was ever excited about. The hope of concerts, large gatherings, and a normal college experience seemed so close! Yet I’ve always had a fear of needles and vaccines. Not only do I get extremely nervous before getting a shot or a prick, but my body goes into a nervous overdrive that causes me to faint. Usually I have to lie down whenever I get a shot and have to continue lying down for the next 10 minutes to ensure I don’t fall over and injure myself. Although fainting may seem abnormal to most, it’s actually pretty common in a large percentage of the population. About 3% of men and 3.5% of women report fainting at least once during their lifetimes, but it is unknown just how often people faint after being vaccinated. Fainting is particularly common among adolescents, where one study reported that 62% of fainting reports were from adolescents aged 11-18. That made me feel slightly less abnormal.
As many know, you sit in a chair when getting the COVID-19 vaccine since there’s such a high demand and so many patients waiting. I, of course, was in the same situation. Rather than telling the doctor that I faint when I get a shot or prick, I convinced myself that I had "probably grown out of it” and that I shouldn’t "be dramatic." Little did I know that not telling them this vital information would result in even more stress for the doctors and my poor mother.
I quickly walked to my assigned seat and watched the doctor get the dose, a wipe, and a bandage. I felt a quick pinch and was all done. It was quick and painless. No big deal, or so I thought. I walked over to my seat across the hall to wait, feeling completely fine and being really proud of myself for not fainting. Well, I spoke too soon. My mom asked me if I was feeling fine, and I responded with a confident "yes." A few minutes later, I retracted my statement and said, “Actually I feel kind of bad now." Before I could even finish talking, my eyes started rolling toward the back of my head, and I began to get dizzy. I saw gray and felt like I was spinning into oblivion. Then I began to fall. It was like I had gone skydiving without the parachute to slow my fall and I was rapidly approaching the ground.
I abruptly awoke to four concerned nurses staring down at me as I was lying across three chairs pushed together. The once-crowded waiting room was now empty. When I asked what happened, the doctors said I fainted and thankfully, my mom was there to catch me. I was shocked. I had really believed that I had grown out of my fear and could possibly go to the doctor by myself like an actual adult. Apparently not.
I did, however, meet and get to talk to some of the sweetest, most caring doctors I know. I had always heard people talk about the importance of passion in the healthcare field. Until that moment, I hadn’t seen that passion with my own eyes, but as I began talking to the doctor whose job was to take care of those who reacted to the vaccine, I finally witnessed that true passion. The way she told me that she also faints when she gets shots while proceeding to share stories of how many of her friends in the healthcare field also faint but overcame those fears to follow their passions, made me think that maybe the entire medical field isn’t an impossible job prospect.
I hope to one day be so passionate about something the way that doctor is so passionate about taking care of her patients. For now, though, I’ll lay down while taking the second dose and hope that I don’t faint once again.(To read the rest of the student writing featured in the Spring 2021 issue, visit Steward Ink.)