To steal an immortal phrase from Dickens, the next 24 hours were going to be “the best and worst of times”. I was popping out to buy firewood when the phone call came. It was from one of the nurses at my GP surgery. This was the joyful part of my story.
She asked if I could come up to the practice straight away. I racked my brain to remember if I had any tests recently. Was I dying from something and they wanted to tell me urgently?
But she continued: “We have Covid vaccine left over from today’s appointments, but it can’t be used tomorrow. We don’t want to waste it. Would you like to have some?”
There was a warm, comforting glow around her words, as though she had baked too many scones and was offering me a few.
Don’t be silly, I didn’t have to think twice. I dashed there with my wife in tow and the nurses gave vaccine shots to us both.
An elixir of life was flowing through our veins from a first dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
It was a marvellous feeling – a light at the end of the tunnel.
But we were not letting our guard down. If anything, it made us more determined to be careful with social distancing.
Right place at right time
Full marks to our redoubtable and resourceful community nurses who are the backbone of GP practices.
Doctors might be “officers” in this NHS army, but nurses are indispensable “NCOs” who keep things going.
They were using their initiative in a brilliant way to avoid dumping the precious liquid because it could not go back in the fridge for the next day.
It would have gone past its “use-by” period, so why waste it?
They rang around to find an old codger like me on the patient list who lived close enough to get in straight away before it expired. We were just in the right place at the right time.
I applaud NHS staff everywhere who are being encouraged not to throw vaccines away, but to make every drop count.
It meant someone else behind me on the list is moving forward. My official letter arrived several days later for a first dose this Wednesday, but I cancelled straight away.
There has been criticism elsewhere about vaccine wastage – 145 doses were reportedly dumped in a few days at an Edinburgh mass vaccination centre.
I read a GP online magazine the other day which reported that staff were being urged to find willing unvaccinated arms from priority groups rather than dump vaccine left over from sessions.
‘The love of a pet helps us through lockdown’
Our joy was short-lived, however, as tragedy struck 24 hours later.
Our pet dog’s life also hinged on a groundbreaking new drug to be injected in two phases, but it was for canine cancer of the leg known as mast-cell tumours.
Back at our vet’s the next day, with my vaccine plaster still on my arm, we discovered her disease had beaten us. Bindy was ravaged by it.
Her brutal battle with a fast and aggressive cancer, which began at Christmas, was over in six short weeks.
Our vet said she was too far gone despite receiving her first injection 10 days earlier. The second jab – to be spaced a month apart – was now futile. The initial healing effects on her tumours were dramatic, but she was overwhelmed by others.
Despite our sad ending I believe in this remarkable drug, but perhaps for dogs with less aggressive or advanced cases and fewer lumps.
Stelfonta was only licensed by the European Medicines Agency last year. Its ingredients come from berry seeds found in the Queensland rainforest in Australia.
It literally zaps skin tumours directly so they dissolve and drop off in days, with a high success rate for full recovery based on trials.
What was particularly cruel with our little Bindy was that she was still in her prime at eight – and everyone said she was the sweetest pooch.
Bindy perked up when I entered the vet’s room where she was about to be put to sleep. She thought she was going home in my arms. Bindy died in my arms instead.
The stillness was broken by tears rolling down my cheeks – and those shed by our wonderful vet and her assistant, too.
The love of a pet helps us through lockdown – they are another form of vaccine.
I whispered in our beloved Bindy’s ear that we would meet again in another life one day.
I meant it. I really pray we do.