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This Covid-19 pandemic has landed us in many a situation. Each handled and managed the situations differently. Here’s one first-hand account of how one can be none the wiser in wrapping one’s head in situations that unfolded of late and yet emerge richer with the experience.

The noose is tightening. Each day pass with higher probability of being in contact with someone infected with Covid-19 or someone who was with someone infected.

It was therefore a welcome relief after being pushed so close to the edge of the cliff when the opportunity came for #CucukMYAZ (kudos to the originator of this cheeky hashtag for the opt-in AstraZeneca vaccination in KL and Selangor).

But it was not without high anxiety pre and post #CucukMYAZ.

Mounting anxiety started off with two close calls personally – the first being in contact with another who was in the company of an infected and another, a very brief direct contact with an infected.

Going for my first RT PCR Covid Testing at a private lab and the waiting for the results were anything but stressful. Never mind that it was one and not like six tests that a colleague had to undergo for close calls, it was enough to put me on tenterhooks. Sleep didn’t come until after 2 am that night with frequent checking of WhatsApp and email for the results from the lab.

The notification received the morning after of being tested negative was but a brief respite! It was drowned out by the deluge of news and forwarded WhatsApp messages that added on more worries, anxieties and fear.

Those news and sharing were of someone within our circle of relatives and friends contracting Covid-19; of someone known succumbing to Covid-19; of images and videos of longer and longer queues at Covid-19 Assessment Centre at Malawati Stadium in Shah Alam for those Covid-positive to be assigned for quarantine; of images of crowded lines and lines of beds at low-risk treatment or quarantine centres…

Amid this, #CucukMYAZ came as the unbelievable slim-chance-fat-hope to be immunised. Yay! It meant the opportunity to beat the system of waiting in line in the roll-out of the national immunisation programme.

Such rare opportunity, however, didn’t come free. For me, it was loaded with anxiety-filled days and nights, which one could do without under present circumstances.

The voluntary opt-in vaccination for the AztraZeneca vaccine running parallel with the national immunisation programme will be on a first-come-first-served basis for those in KL and Selangor where cases of infection are high.

With 268,000 vaccine slots available, a rush would be expected when online registration open at noon on May 2.

Never one ever drawn to join the online scramble for free air tickets previously, this age-old inexperienced hand wanted to have a go at it this time around. One can imagine the anxiety build up with the approach of opening hour.

Son No 1 and No 2 knowing that their Pa can be a slowhand assigned me to register for self only.

As the clock struck 12, the heart pounded as quickly as we sped to fill the registration form. But only to learn soon enough that we couldn’t submit. However many times we tried, the message “Sorry, all slots are full…” kept popping up.

It couldn’t be! Conspiracy theory! Insiders and friends and friends of insiders had short circuited the registration process to be successful!!!

My fertile imagination went on overdrive. “It would be like striking 4D to get it,” I told myself. I just gave up.

A WhatsApp image of “Tahniah! Anda telah berjaya menempah slot…” received from my business partner got me back trying. Clicked and clicked on various date slots and the only result, a fast racing heart and increased frustration!

As I gave up again, Son No 1 sent me the Tahniah image through WhatsApp saying “Pa, urs”. From his home, he had successfully secured his slot and also got mine. Soon after Son No 2 got for himself and mum. All of us on different dates.

Anxiety turned to relief, comforted that we would soon have the needed layer of protection against the already fast spreading Covid infection.

That dissipated quickly too. It was living on the edge up to the day of the not-to-be-missed appointment. It didn’t help for wife and I to have flu-like symptoms in the run up to V-Day. It fuelled imagination and fear whether we had by chance came into contact with someone asymptomatic.

When V-Day came for me, I left home two hours earlier for a 30-minute drive to World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur. This early bird didn’t catch any worm but squirmed to find the vaccination centre closed for lunch only to open at 2 pm – the appointed time for the vaccination.

The 10 am line outside WTC this morning before they get into the venue for their jab

Waiting spiked anxiety. It was very telling of the degree of anxiety when I ticked “No” for two questions on Medical History in the Consent Form. I didn’t realise until much later that I had answered the two questions:

  • Pregnant or planning to conceive? (for women)

  • Currently breastfeeding? (for women)

What was I thinking? No, I was not. What I read and comprehended then were the questions but what I totally missed was the for women.

My mind was pre-occupied with getting the jab and importantly, preparing myself for the post vaccination, the after effects. I had by then been well prepped mentally for the aftermath and I would be watching out for it.

Many have shared their post-vaccination experiences ranging from nothing, mild to high-grade fever, crankiness but here’s my anxiously watched and recorded account:

  • Within 1st hour: Pain from tightness as in a clump at the injected area of forearm, and feeling just a little heady

  • Three hours later: Felt the chills and body heat rising. Just like onset of flu, nose was getting stuff and throat beginning to itch. Pain on the forearm receded

  • Four hours later: The feverish feeling disappeared as if my army of antibodies successfully overcame the invading forces from the vaccine

  • That night: Sleep was interrupted each time I turned to sleep on the right side (jab was on right forearm for this southpaw)

  • The morning after: Woke up later than usual but with slight body ache. Pain in the forearm back. Irritation of the throat and stuffy nose still there.

  • The rest of the day: Slight fever on and off and felt lethargic throughout the day.

  • 48 hours later: Except for receding pain on the forearm, felt like new. Even went for a 6km walk.

  • Third day: Just when I thought that the episodes of mild side effects were over, felt onset of fever in late afternoon. Temperature check showed no fever. Again, I put it off as another battle that my army was engaged in and that turned out to be the final!

The major side effect in my case was the expectation of the side effects, having read up information such as this: Based on clinical trials, common side effects from were mild to moderate included headache (52.6%), fatigue (53.1%), fever (33.6%) chills (31.9%), nausea (21.9%).

As it turned out, it was the fear and worries stemming from pre-occupation of perceived or desired outcome that made it into a valued journey of experience. Being up close and personal with the close encounters taught up the one lesson – just be in the present. Let go of the pre-conceived and built-up expectations or be overwhelmed by unnecessary anxieties.

Thank you for letting us use your photo, @phoonchiho

As the younger ones will say, take a chill pill. Go with the flow. All will come to pass.

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