By Tobye S. Stein
I’ve never been envious of my friends for what they have nor am I impressed by status symbols that other people acquire. In the 1980s, the Honda Prelude with the removable top was the must-have vehicle among some of my colleagues. Later, that gave way to Mont Blanc pens and Rolex watches, then to BMWs in the early 2000s. I had two colleagues, women, who almost got into a physical fight over whose BMW was better. The cars were equal although one was a year newer. And one friend insisted for her 50th birthday that she needed the newest Mercedes convertible sports car. She hated it and turned it in as soon as the lease was up and opted for a Lincoln Navigator.
This month, as Covid-19 vaccines became available, several people I knew got their first doses. I was glad that my friends in healthcare were finally getting the protection they needed. I was also happy for the first few friends and relatives who were getting “shot up.” But as more and more people in my universe received their first doses of the vaccine, I became increasingly agitated. Even though I was on five different waiting lists, my vaccine envy and my desire to be vaccinated grew exponentially.
Fortunately, a friend and fellow high school classmate posted on Facebook that she had found the yellow brick road to Oz (my words, not hers). I immediately asked how she was able to schedule an appointment. She said that she called a number for Beaumont Hospital, which has several locations in the greater Detroit area. I asked if she’d share the phone number, and she did, thankfully.
I called the number and spent nearly 90 minutes on hold. Of course when a woman came on the phone, I was speeding on the freeway to my appointment with my ophthalmologist. I was expecting the Beaumont woman to say I could have an appointment in February, late February if I was lucky. Amazingly, the delightful woman on the phone said she had availability two days later, and would I like a morning or afternoon appointment? When I asked to schedule an appointment for my husband Neal, she said yes and checked to see if we could come at the same time. Yes, come together!
Now in order to schedule an appointment with Beaumont, we each needed to have a “myBeaumontchart.” It’s a means for logging into their patient system. We each have one because of prior appointments. The requirement is that you have to be a current Beaumont patient.
While waiting for the ophthalmologist to enter, I called Neal to give him the good news. He informed me that he had received a confirmation email, and that his appointment showed up in his chart. He was wondering how that happened. I told him I had finally talked to a real person. I felt as lucky as if I had won the lottery, and Neal was calling me his hero.
As my eyes were dilating, I checked my email but there was nothing from Beaumont. When I arrived home with eyes fully dilated and while wearing sunglasses, I attempted to sign into email, and there was gornicht --Yiddish for nothing-- from Beaumont. I checked my Beaumont chart and again zilch. And I was furious, upset, and getting even angrier. I told Neal that from now on, I would only schedule my own appointment. Of course this isn’t true, but things are often said in the heat of anger. I was apoplectic that he had his appointment, and I had none!
Several hours later, when I called Beaumont again and was on hold for an hour, I checked my chart for the 50th time (okay, not 50 but quite often), and there was my appointment in my chart. At that point, I hung up the phone. The mysterious email confirming my appointment came in at 3:32 a.m.
As my blood pressure went down, I began to realize how fortunate I was, and how ridiculous it was to be so upset. The vaccine may lead to a return to normalcy.
Of course, all of my trepidation wasn’t immediately alleviated even with appointments schedule. I requested early appointments because, yes, I was concerned that they might run out of vaccines on any given day. I’ve heard repeatedly on the news that even people with appointments were turned away because their sites were out of vaccines.
We arrived at Beaumont as requested at 9:25 for our 9:40 appointments. We walked and walked until we found the end of the line. It took 15 minutes or so before we entered vaccine heaven. We filled out a short form with the routine questions about having Covid, being exposed to Covid, and reactions to other vaccines. We also filled out a HIPPA form.
We then proceeded to the next line for our injections. They were going to send us to separate desks, but I explained that I was going to write an article for a newsmagazine, and I knew my editor wanted photos. No problem. Just before we were sent forward, one employee said she was out of the vaccine. This of course made me very nervous, but I calmed down quickly when I realized there were so many vaccination stations.
And then, we were given the Pfizer vaccine. The injection itself was less painful than a flu shot, a shingles vaccine, or a pneumonia injection. Neal concurred: the vaccination was painless.
After the injections, we were directed to a person who made our next appointment for February 11, same time, same station. We then waited the required 15 minutes in an area where the seats were socially distant and wiped off between patients. We were also given the choice whether to have the CDC follow up on us for our reactions, and we agreed. Since then, we’ve heard from them daily.
All of the Beaumont people were more than praiseworthy. We were thanked repeatedly for coming while in the first line, at the registration table, in the post-injection area, and on the way out of vaccine heaven. All of the employees knew what they were doing. I’m just hopeful that when we return on February 11, there will be second doses available.
Afterwards, I shared that magic phone number with everyone who asked and all have scheduled appointments. My envy of others is once again in check. I honestly never thought that a vaccine injection would turn me into a green-eyed monster!
Tobye S. Stein retired as Chief Human Resources Officer from a California-based financial services organization. She once landed a job by replying to the age old question, “Why should I hire you instead of the other two candidates” by simply stating “I’m funnier than most people.” It worked.