A year and a half ago, I was working full-time at a weight management center as a Registered Dietitian. I was actually just recovering from a period of extreme anxiety and disordered eating habits. The constant stress would cause my bladder to flare, which is not ideal when you have to dress professionally every day (tight pants are my enemy). I was mentally and physically exhausted.
When the pandemic hit, our office closed for a few days and, honestly I was relieved that I was getting a few days off. When I was told I was being furloughed from my job for a few weeks, I was again relieved. I needed a break. But weeks turned into months, and I started to understand the impact COVID was having in the United States and the rest of the world.
Fast forward to January of 2021, I was working part-time at a hospital as an inpatient dietitian, and most of the time I was working from home and calling patients that were in the hospital. The second wave of COVID had just hit and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were granted emergency permission. There were talks of front-liners being the first to get vaccinated and at the time I was so grateful to be included in the second tier of those who would be offered a vaccine.
When I received an email to sign up for an appointment to be vaccinated, I took the first available. A little side note about me - I HATE needles. So vaccinations/shots are not my friend. I will get worked up beforehand as the thought of a needle being stuck in my arm makes me cringe. The stress typically causes my IC to have a minor flare, but goes away once the shot is given.
Back to the story - I showed up to the hospital that I worked at at 8:00am on a Monday morning. I was worried because I was scheduled to work the following day, and had heard that a 24-hour reaction to the vaccine was possible (yes, more stress). I followed the signs and made my way to a table with 2 women checking people in. I told them my name, and they told me, “you are getting the Pfizer vaccine today”. Deep down I was hoping it was Pfizer because I had heard of some people getting crazy reactions from Moderna (all anecdotal stories with no scientific evidence).
The room was filled with about 25 tables of nurses who were administering the vaccine. I walked over to the table I was directed towards, and introduced myself to the nurse. I explained that I am not good with shots, so I wasn’t planning on looking as she gave it. She informed me that they were using this special band-aid that they put on your arm and then give the vaccine through in order to reduce the risk of infection. I thought, that’s pretty cool, and proceeded to get jabbed with the needle.
After the shot, they required everyone to sit down in a waiting area for 15 minutes before leaving. My nurse explained this was to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction to the vaccine while leaving the hospital. Makes sense, I thought. I sat there and read the Frequently Asked Questions handout they gave me to pass the time, waiting for my body to have an adverse reaction. But I didn’t, so I left.
That day, I felt completely normal. I went to work the next day and nothing happened. I thought, I’m in the clear. I was looking forward to getting my second dose 3 weeks later in order to be considered fully vaccinated.
The next 10 days I went about my life as I normally would during the pandemic - working from home, staying in and trying to keep myself occupied. At the time, I still lived with my parents. No point in moving out during a pandemic, I thought.
My family was very cautious. We didn’t really go anywhere. We stayed away from our friends. We ordered groceries from Walmart and wiped every single item down. We took every precaution possible.
Then, one day, I heard from my mom that my 88 year old grandma wasn’t feeling well. She was experiencing fatigue and GI symptoms. Don’t panic yet, we thought. But then I heard that my dad was over at her house the day before she started feeling sick. Still trying not to panic.
Two days later, my dad, who almost never gets sick, comes down with what he thought was a cold. My mom and I were worried that it could be COVID, so we told him to keep his distance from us. We actually banished him to the basement, but honestly, he wasn’t great at honoring our wishes.
The next day, we learned that my grandma tested positive for COVID-19. So, we had my dad get tested at a local pharmacy. The issue was, the pharmacy said it takes 2-3 days to get results back. So with my grandma testing positive, and my dad exhibiting symptoms, we were on edge.
My dad got his test results back the following day - positive for COVID-19. Ok, now we all panicked. My boyfriend had actually slept at our house the night before, and I was at work when I found out. I proceeded to call my boyfriend and tell him to leave my house ASAP, and I left work.
I wasn’t too worried about myself, though. If I recall correctly, top officials said that once you have your first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you are about 50% protected from the virus. I still stayed away from my dad as best I could. But, once I learned of his positive test, I took the family dog, Bella, and told my boyfriend I would meet him at his place in Philadelphia.
Bella and I were packed for a few days, since we assumed we’d have to stay away for a while. As we were driving down the PA Turnpike, I was in the passing lane (innermost out of 3 lanes), driving 80 mph (speed limit 70 mph), but most people drive 80-90 mph on this road.
I was listening to a Crime Junkie podcast, and in a split second, three deer jumped the median from the other side of the highway (how they managed to cross 3 lanes is a mystery). I hit two of the three deer at 80 mph. My airbag deployed, and I then proceeded to move my car into the inner shoulder of the highway.
I called 911, explaining what happened, where I was, that I was ok, and that I could see deer scattered across the three lanes of the turnpike. I told them to send the police ASAP, as other drivers were at risk due to the high speed of the traffic.
Bella was ok (thank God) because she was in the backseat. I then got out of my car (Bella was still inside) to see the damage. I had just bought this car 6 months ago with 14,000 miles on it. If it was totaled, I would be devastated. But I looked at the front of the car, and honestly, the damage wasn’t terrible.
The 7 minutes it took the police to arrive at the scene was the longest and scariest 7 minutes of my life. There were deer bodies scattered across a high-speed highway, I was pulled over onto the shoulder but not completely, and sat in my car because I remembered someone once told me that is the safest thing to do. I tried to remain calm, but my car shook with every passing vehicle traveling 80 mph.
Honestly, I was shocked that no one stopped to help - but then realized that everyone was driving too fast to safely stop.
Once the police arrived, I saw the officer put on a glove, and proceed to pull the deer (deceased) onto the shoulder out of the way of traffic. He crossed the highway during a break in traffic, and I rolled my window down. He had a mask on, (because COVID, duh), and honestly I was too disheveled from my fight or flight response to even think of putting a mask on. He understands, I told myself.
He told me he was calling a tow truck and that it should be there soon. I called my boyfriend to tell him what happened and that I wouldn’t make it to Philadelphia. I also called my parents to tell them the news and that someone, likely my mom since my dad had COVID-19, would have to pick me up an hour away at the tow truck company. And most importantly I told them that Bella and I were ok.
Another officer, a State Trooper, pulled in front of me and walked to the driver’s side of my car. He motioned for me to roll my window down, but it was stuck, so I had to open the door. He helped me cut the airbag out of my way and told me I was extremely lucky in this situation. He told me most people do not survive an accident like this.
I was grateful that my dog and I were unharmed. I only walked away with bruises on my legs (leg airbags?).
Bella and I hopped in the tow truck and got towed to a place ridiculously far from the scene of the accident. My mom picked us up and drove us home to our COVID-infected house.
I was not thrilled about this, but was just glad to be safe. My best friend's family called me and told me if my dad didn’t have COVID that they would have invited me over to have tea and watch a scary movie to get my mind off the accident. Huge bummer, but understandable.
The next day, my mom started exhibiting symptoms. She got tested, but we already figured she had it given she had been in close quarters with my dad. I did my best to hole up in my room.
But the night following my mom’s COVID-19 positive results, my throat started feeling a little funky. I told my boyfriend, and he assured me I was probably fine since I had the first dose of the vaccine.
I am the type of person who jumps to worst-case-scenarios in my mind, so my stress was at an all time high. I was just waiting for more symptoms to come.
And they did. I soon developed a dry cough, and immediately scheduled an E-visit with a doctor in my network. We briefly met for a video visit, and he advised me to go get a COVID test. I went the next morning. By that time I had a dry cough and was very fatigued. I got my test done, then went home to wait.
A few hours later, I received a call that my test was contaminated and I would have to come back in to get re-tested. This is ridiculous, I thought. I am putting more people at risk by returning to the hospital to get tested. But I needed to know. The nurse told me my results would be expedited since I worked at the hospital.
A few hours later, I received a positive result in my patient portal. I had Covid-19. I soon learned that my aunt had also tested positive.
I was required to quarantine for 10 days with my parents. It was an extremely tense time, as my family was pointing fingers at who brought Covid into our careful circle. My mom was mad at my dad, so I spent the majority of my time in my room, working from home.
In terms of my symptoms, they were mild. The dry cough and raspy throat only lasted about 12 hours. I had ongoing fatigue and congestion for about 5 days. I lost my taste and smell about 4 days into it.
Being the foodie I am, this made me nervous. I read on the internet that some people lost their taste and smell for weeks or even months…I knew I had to do everything I could to get it back.
One morning I was on Facebook, and came across a recommendation in a support group that someone said they got their smell and taste back after taking L-Lysine and Zinc twice a day. I thought, it won’t hurt right? I was already taking a lower dose of vitamin C each day as my bladder seemed to tolerate it. I’m not sure if it was supplements I was taking or just luck, but I got my smell and taste back within 1 week.
In terms of eating, it was difficult. I didn’t have a desire to eat since I couldn’t taste it. For breakfast, I ate oatmeal. For lunch, I ate a salad (literally just lettuce, cheese and dressing) and a Core Power protein shake. For dinner, our friends would rotate dropping a meal off for us. We felt pretty guilty that they were spending their money on food that we couldn’t taste, but were grateful nonetheless.
As the days went on, I remembered I had an appointment for my second Covid vaccine. I started to wonder if I would be able to get it, because I had not heard of anyone else getting infected between doses. I researched, called my doctor, and called my work. No one knew the answer to my question.
My second dose was scheduled to be on the first day after my quarantine was over. I thought, this is cutting it a little close. I tried to reschedule my appointment, but they didn’t have any other slots open in the next few weeks.
So I went.
I walked into the hospital, walked down the hallway to the table with the ladies signing people in. They asked me my name, and told me which table and nurse to go to. I asked them, if I had Covid almost 2 weeks ago, should/could I get my second dose?
They did not know the answer. So I asked the nurse administering the shot. She did not know either. How does no one know what to do?
I was officially fully vaccinated. Exciting, right? I was still skeptical that I made the right choice, but I supposed I may not ever know. I was also exhausted from the events of the past 2 weeks of illness and a traumatic car accident.
Now, let’s talk IC. Like I said earlier, I had no reaction to the first dose. By the way, I had zero concerns that the vaccine would make my IC worse - the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. During my time infected by the illness, I had a consistent, mild bladder flare. This did not come as a surprise to me, as I usually flare up when I am ill. I also had the trauma from the car accident to put my body in an inflammatory state.
I made sure to stay hydrated during the period of the illness. If I am dehydrated, it only makes the flare worse. I tried to drink 64 oz water each day.
Once I felt better, my flare went away. After I received my second dose of the vaccine, I did not have a reaction. I was extremely nervous since I read that people were reacting poorly to the second dose, getting a fever or other side effects.
But I was fine. I suppose my body had already been through enough and developed antibodies. Thanks Covid.
It is now 7 months later, and my IC remains the same - very minimal symptoms.
This is only my experience. I know there are tons of other IC warriors out there that have their own story to tell, and I encourage them to do it. There was a poll conducted by the IC-Network that surveyed around 90 people with Covid-19 and found that “COVID-19 can exacerbate IC symptoms, even in patients who have been in remission for an extended period of time. 74% reported that their IC symptoms worsened during their COVID infection while 23% reported that their symptoms stayed the same.”
I wouldn’t consider myself to be in that 23% since my situation was unique in that I had already had the first dose of the vaccine in my body.
The ICA recently published a statement explaining that there is no evidence that people with IC are immunosuppressed, and thus, having IC does not make you more susceptible to the virus.
In terms of people with IC getting vaccinated, I could not find any research or literature supporting people not getting the vaccine. I recently sat in on a Facebook Live session conducted by Jill Osborne of the IC Network, and she encouraged everyone with IC to get vaccinated. Being protected from the virus outweighs the risk for developing any type of reaction from the vaccine.
Like I said before, I trusted the current research supporting the vaccine and didn’t think twice about getting it. Will other research come out in the future that could have negative findings? Maybe. But for now, what we know is that the vaccine is 90% effective at preventing hospitalization from COVID-19.
Bottom line? GET VACCINATED. Protect yourself and those around you. I hope reading my experience helps you make that decision.
Oh, and don’t drive in the passing lane on the Turnpike if you can help it, according to the State Trooper I spoke with.
Questions? Comments? Drop them in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details about the vaccine, visit CDC.gov.
Stay safe everyone!