Over the past three years, I’ve developed a complicated relationship with the COVID-19 virus.
My first encounter was in the United States. I developed what I thought was a powerful case of the flu, with all the symptoms that most of us are familiar with and are far too unpleasant to detail here. When the symptoms worsened, my husband insisted I see our family doctor, Dr. Bouchier.
Dr. Bouchier squeezed me into his already busy schedule on a Friday afternoon. After listening to my symptoms, he recommended several over-the-counter remedies.
Then, standing in the doorway as he was about to leave, he said, “Maybe you should be tested for COVID. Would you mind?”
I didn’t mind because I was sure I didn’t have it. He didn’t think so either, but better to err on the safe side, he said.
Dr. Bouchier called me the following Monday morning to tell me that his news was going to wreck my day. The test was positive.
Later, I joked with him that it didn’t wreck my day. No, it wrecked the next two weeks. Because at that point, I had to notify everyone I’d been in contact with, plus I had to isolate myself. My husband, by the way, didn’t get COVID.
When vaccines finally became available, another one of my doctors, an allergist, suggested I wait and get the Johnson & Johnson version. It required only one dose (instead of the two required by the other manufacturers) and had the best history of not triggering reactions.
The vaccine was in short supply, but I managed to visit Rite-Aid in Grass Valley the very day they had received a supply of the Johnson & Johnson (also referred to as Janssen) vaccine, so I was able to get my shot.
Then I moved to France, and life became a bit more complicated.
Because the medical community in France was not a big fan of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I started all over with a full dose of vaccine from a different manufacturer.
Later came a booster shot. I remember this occasion well because I received the shot in the downtown vaccination center, where long lines of people had assembled to get theirs.
I was in a wheelchair because of a broken bone in my foot, so Expresso, my son, wheeled me to the head of the line without a wait. As an expatriate, I felt a bit guilty passing by the French citizens who were waiting. But I accepted the special privilege given to all wheelchair-bound patients.
Then came another booster shot at a local pharmacy, a rather ordinary moment.
And then I had my most recent booster in downtown Montpellier at a vaccination center adjoining the oldest medical school in France and southern Europe. The medical faculty was officially established in 1181, nearly a thousand years ago.
Expresso and I went on his motor scooter. Now, scooters terrify me. But with parking at a premium and European city centers being incredibly byzantine and difficult to navigate legally by car, I try to be a good sport.
The building we entered was massive, with high ceilings. It was hard not to feel dwarfed by the dimensions of the exterior and interior.
After my vaccination, Expresso and I wandered across the street to a huge garden that had once been used to cultivate herbs for medicinal purposes. The building partially hidden by the trees in the photo is the orangerie, necessary for growing oranges in a northern climate. Historically, owning an orangerie was an ostentatious display of power and wealth.
We then walked across the street to the massive Montpellier Cathedral. Inside, the gothic arches seemed incapable of holding up the massive weight of the carved stone overhead. Built in the thirteenth century, the church became a cathedral in 1536.
I was impressed by the colossal organ pipes that lined the rear of the cathedral. Perhaps one day, I’ll persuade someone to bring me here for mass. I am sure the sound would be extraordinary.
Getting a vaccination was never so wonderful as it was during this outing to the oldest medical center in France and the beautiful Montpellier Cathedral. Even the terrifying and frigidly cold ride to and from the center was worth it.
Best of all, I was reminded once again what I enjoy about living in France.