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Napa Journal: One of us gets the COVID vaccine

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Kevin Courtney masked

Cheryl got the best possible gift last month. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was injected into her right arm the day after Christmas.

She hadn’t anticipated being one of the first Americans to get protection against the pandemic virus. Indeed, we had both resigned ourselves to waiting until spring or beyond.

Then came the phone call. A supervisor at one of her places of employment called to offer a vaccine just approved by the FDA for emergency use.

Cheryl hesitated, but not because she was worried about risk. Aren’t there frontline health care workers who need this vaccine more? she asked.

Cheryl’s not a nurse. She doesn’t work in an ER or ICU. She does her job without suiting up in a spacesuit.

Indeed, she is often able to do her allied health care job from the safety of our home.

But not always. If she must leave home for this job, she’d been equipped with a face shield for unexpected encounters with patients whose COVID health cannot be vouched for.

Cheryl’s supervisor appreciated her concern about saving the vaccine for employees more vulnerable than herself, but that wasn’t the question of the hour. This health care organization seemingly had plenty of vaccine for its workers. Did she want the vaccine or not?

A light went on in Cheryl’s head. This wasn’t an opportunity to debate the nation’s vaccine rollout policies. This was a yes or no question.

She swallowed hard. Yes, she said.

That night we talked about this stunning development. After nine months of stepping cautiously through daily life, she was being offered a scientific miracle.

She accepted not so much for herself, she said, but because of her low-level fear of someday bringing the virus home from work or shopping and knocking me off my senior citizen feet. There was also the grandbaby she sees almost weekly to protect.

Directions came a week later. Cheryl was to drive to a medical facility in Solano County on Saturday, the day after Christmas, and don’t forget to bring your face shield, she was told.

I signed up to go with her for the 7:45 a.m. shot. You never know. Maybe she’d be too woozy to drive herself back to Napa.

We left home an hour early in case of traffic, only Highway 29 was empty. The medical facility seemed deserted too.

While I waited in the car, a guard let her into the building where two nurses were waiting.

I sat alone, my brain spinning. While the whole world was clamoring for the vaccine, Cheryl was getting hers. How phenomenal. How absolutely delicious.

After 20 minutes, I got her first text: “Down in about 10 min. Being watched!”

I took this as a good sign.

Then a second text: “Moderna, not Pfizer!!”

When she strode out of the building, I rushed over and gave her a hug.

“Ouch,” she said. I’d crunched her shot arm.

Cheryl’s only side effect was the sore arm. She drove us home, went on a two-mile walk, gardened for a couple of hours and then made dinner.

As we ate, we replayed over and over how fate had put her in the vanguard of humanity to receive COVID protection.

“I don’t get too many astounding moments in my life,” she said. “This was pretty visceral.”

Now that it’s been two weeks since Cheryl got her first dose, how has it changed our lives?

Practically speaking, not at all. We still hunker down.

Her COVID immunity is likely, but not for sure. Her ability to pass on the virus may still exist. Her husband remains a member of a vulnerable population.

And COVID remains on the prowl.


Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung will be receiving Bitcoin as part of his contract with the team.

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Kevin can be reached at 707- 256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or

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