Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Tooth scraping and a sore arm

This morning was my twice-yearly teeth scraping. I added on two other stops to complete the day. And my arm was sore when I was done.

The visit with the dental hygienist wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected—which isn’t to suggest it was “good”, just not as bad as I’d thought it would be. The dental practice is located in a medical complex that includes a pharmacy, and that’s where I got my last Covid booster back in August. This time, I got my annual influenza vaccination and also the bivalent Covid booster vaccination.

The vaccinations were beginning to become critical: Winter starts on Thursday (June 1), and that means colder weather and more illness of all sorts will abound. I’m considered at higher risk for potentially bad outcomes from two diseases if I were to catch them: Influenza and Covid.

Influenza isn’t what lots of people call “the flu”, which is often just a bad cold. Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory system that can cause life-threatening Illness, especially among people deemed at higher risk. Influenza vaccines are free for people 65 and older (and Māori and Pacific Island people over 55), along with people at higher risk—like me.

The reason I get a free influenza vaccination at my extraordinarily young age of 64 is that my ischaemic heart disease (aka coronary artery disease), especially combined with hypertension, puts me at risk. The vaccine we get immunised against multiple strains of the virus based on scientists’ best guess on what strains we’re likely to see in New Zealand, and that’s based in part on what the Northern Hemisphere had in its recent winter.

The Covid vaccine now available is the bivalent, which boosts protection from the original strains in NZ, plus immunises against the newer, more communicable strains (easier to catch, but less serious, apparently). The qualifications for the jab I got today include the person being over 30 or at higher risk (like me). It’s also available after at least six months since a Covid booster shot or positive test result. This was my fifth Covid jab.

The reason I got the vaccinations is partly what I was talking about in my post about getting leg cramp the other day: It’s the sheer terror I can (and do) feel when facing the possibility of a serious health challenge alone. I wasn’t like this when Nigel was alive—of course—and so far it’s mainly been fear of the unknown, what could happen. To be fair, I worry about sudden heart problems (as in, needing to call an ambulance serious) or a serious accident far more than I worry about some possible disease I may never catch. Even so, having to face a big health challenge alone is, for me, one if the worst things about being a widower.

To deal with that, I essentially try to minimise risk. First, I do my best to eat a more or less healthy plant-centred diet (which is why I normally eat little meat, apart from some chicken and occasional fish, which is the sort of diet my various GPs have always recommended for me. Second, I’m always really careful when I work on any projects where I could get badly hurt. I find that extremely challenging because my lack of focus makes it hard to be truly mindful of what I’m doing in a particular moment. Still, it’s worked so far. The third thing is to keep myself fully vaccinated.

For the first time in my life, being an introvert is an advantage in all this: I don’t like being around crowds of strangers (they exhaust me), so I avoid unnecessary trips to the shops (for example, I make one trip to a home centre to pick up several things, rather than lots of trips for just one thing at a time). This allows me to minimise my possible exposure to infected people—not eliminate, obviously, just minimise.

Beyond that, I can monitor my “vitals”, so I should be able to detect a problem as it develops, while I can still act. None of that takes away the fear caused by the worry I may need to face a health crisis alone, but managing risk certainly makes it easier to live with.

While I was at the chemist, I asked the pharmacist about a supplement to help me ward off leg cramp. He said they recommend magnesium, and in talking with him he suggested I take a time-release formulation and at dinner to maximise my protection overnight. He also said I’d need to give it a month to see if it helps, but I hardly ever get leg cramp, so… maybe I won’t actually know? Maybe it’s be a realisation, “huh—I haven;t had leg cramp in years”. I can work with that.

When I was done, I popped into the nearby supermarket on my way home.

I got home midday-ish, had lunch, then did a few things, but then I started to feel a bit poorly, kind of like after my first or second Covid jab (I forget which). I took a long nap and felt better afterward, but I still took paracetamol (as recommended) along with drinking lots of water. By early evening, I had a really sore arm. They can do both shots in one arm if we want, and I chose that so I can sleep on my other side (I mostly sleep on my right side), but, ouchies!

So far, so good—though it’s still possible I may have a bad reaction like I did back in August. That time, the worst of the lot, made me feel so awful I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t get another jab, though this one isn’t the same as the last one, and there’s been more time between them than there was before the one back in August.

Basically, my survival instincts outweighed my desire to avoid feeling sick, and maybe this will work out fine. I should know in the morning.

As long as I don’t feel sick in the middle of the night this time, a sore arm is probably an acceptable trade-off.

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