Now that Garry has completed both of his vaccinations and I’ve had my first, I can look back over the past couple of months of frenzy as we fought to get our shots and wonder at the wonderful people who give out the shots, the bizarre people who snarl at you on the telephone as if you are some kind of crazy because you really want vaccinations and aren’t willing to wait until “someday in the far off future” and would like it now, please.

COVID notification at Dartmouth High School

I called UMass first to ask if they were giving vaccinations and they said “Yes, but randomly.”

“What,” I queried, “Do you mean by ‘randomly’?”

“We are offering them to people who are eligible in no particular order. But,” she said, with great sarcasm in her voice, “If you want to get them sooner, you can always try other sites.”

“So,” I asked, “Is there something you find objectionable about someone feeling vulnerable and wanted to get vaccinated sooner rather than later? Aren’t you supposed to be urging us to get vaccinated? That certainly is what you are saying on television.”

She snarled back at me, “Well, we are giving them to whoever we select without regard for any other consideration.” Was she waiting for a bribe or afraid I’d offer one?

I was — and still am — baffled by her attitude. She was supposed to be the “help line” for COVID questions at UMass, but she seemed to think people who wanted vaccines were calling to annoy her. Did I interrupt whatever game she was playing on the computer? Or a longed-for cup of coffee?

Randomly didn’t work for me.

I dove full-bore into COVID vaccine websites and eventually found Garry a vaccination in a far away land called Dartmouth. At their high school. It was 110 mile round trip drive with heavy traffic. We just buckled up and did it.

Eventually, like about two weeks after we had already gone to Dartmouth on February 6, we discovered UMass had scheduled Garry for vaccination at UMass on February 1st. Unbeknownst to either of us, UMass somehow put an immovable vaccination appointment on Garry’s Google calendar. By then, it was the middle of the month. They never called or emailed. Or texted. They didn’t alert “MyChart” which is our official connection to UMass, so Garry never got the alert that there was something he needed to do, medically speaking. Normally, when you’ve got an appointment with anybody connected with UMass, they call you repeatedly with the world’s longest taped message. You have to listen to the entire message each time until, at the very end, they say “Press ONE if you are coming. Press TWO if you want to cancel.”

They do not include anything which lets you reschedule. For that, you have to call, tracking down whoever is doing the scheduling for the particular department (and they have a lot of departments) and hope he or she can access the computer and change the appointment.

For this critical event (and I’m betting they had already set up the appointment when I called), we got no notification. No prerecorded phone call. No email. No live phone call. No alert through “MyChart.” Nothing. They dropped the information into his calendar without collateral information — like when or where he was supposed to go or that he was supposed to go anywhere.

I, on the other hand, haven’t heard anything from anyone at UMass and still haven’t except for a poster telling me that they are back in the COVID vaccination business and I only got that information today. Meanwhile, I had already gotten an appointment in Sturbridge at the CVS. Across the street from a tasty looking seafood restaurant, which if it is open when I go back for round two of the vaccine, I might just decide to have dinner.

The vaccine went as smooth as silk and they notified me at least a dozen times to remind me I had a vaccination scheduled.

It makes you wonder who – if anyone – is in charge.

Call me crazy, but does any of this make sense? There wasn’t even a contact number so I couldn’t even call back and tell them he’d already gotten vaccinated elsewhere and had they just emailed or called or texted, we’d have GLADLY gone to UMass than taken that exhausting excursion to Dartmouth. Not that they weren’t extremely nice in Dartmouth, but UMass is about 10 miles away as opposed to 53.

Everyone who has “scored” a vaccination (or the first of two) has a story to tell. It’s an adventure. They got lucky. When they were about to give up, something happened. Someone had spare shots and called them. CVS suddenly showed up with shots when every other site in the state said there was no vaccines anywhere.

Vaccination stories are a hot topic. These exciting tales will make everyone laugh. Eventually. If we are still alive when the funny part starts.

Meanwhile, my right arm is pretty sore, but that’s (so far) the only reaction I’ve had. I think this is a more painful shot for women. They use the big deltoid muscle behind your shoulder which is a big muscle in men, but not particularly substantial in women. Never mind. If it had hurt 10 times more, I’d do it anyway.

Twilight in Dartmouth

Categories: Anecdote, Coronavirus - Covid 19, Health, Medical humor, UMass Memorial, Vaccination, vaccine

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10 replies

  1. I am just shocked at the horrible attitude of the woman you spoke with at UMass. That’s terrible customer service. I know I should not be surprised about that really but this is a health care provider during a pandemic and you definitely fall into the vulnerable person category.


    • I think some of these “service” people are basically kids. They really don’t get it. They work cheap and they aren’t really trained. I was pissed off too. Some young nurses in hospitals have basically the same attitude, that all “old people” by which they mean people who are older than their parents are stupid, senile, and should be treated like morons. You have to wonder why they become nurses.

      But we’ve got so many issues to be upset about, that’s a small one. Much bigger stuff is looming and I’m just trying not to get to hysterical about it. I’ll write you later.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m totally ignorant of state sponsored health systems, the only time I ever came across it was in MA. I’ve never had to register with the state I lived in to see a doctor.


    • I guess you aren’t on Medicare. Because I don’t register with the state, but I do choose my provider and those are state based. You have a provider, right? If you aren’t working, who are you using? You chose it from somewhere, right? You registered or you would n’t HAVE a doctor. Maybe your husband or one of your kids or a friend helped you?

      If you aren’t working, you registered because that’s the only way you can have insurance — ANY insurance. All plans other than straight Medicare are state-based — in other words, you can only use a program that operates in your state and some states offer a lot of options, others have just one provider. Massachusetts has a huge number of choices and most people actually care who is going to take care of their health.

      I’m always surprised at how little most people know about the health systems in their states. You have to register. Everywhere.

      All choices are state-based. We do not HAVE a national system except for Medicare, but you have to register for that too. They don’t just hand it to you. It’s also NOT free. The only “free” care is for veterans — and it’s not free for everyone and you have to register for that, too. No one just “gives you health care.” Not anywhere in this country or, for that matter, in any other country.

      Unless you are insanely rich and paying for all your own medical care and live without any insurance –in which case, you should reconsider your position visa-a-vis medical care. No one needs medical care — until they do. At which point it’s usually too late to do anything about it.


      • No we aren’t on Medicare. When my husband retired he had the option of continuing the health insurance he had when he was working, which he opted to do. and yes, I am covered under my husband’s health insurance and that coverage will continue even if he predeceases me because his pension is set up with survivor benefits. The insurance premium is taken directly from his pension payment every month. The insurance provider is FEPBlue and Virginia has nothing to do with it.


        • So you ARE registered. You just didn’t do it yourself.

          And yes, Virginia does have something to do with it because if they did not support the insurance — that is if the insurance were not a “covered” provider — no one would accept the insurance. My husband knows absolutely nothing about any of this either because I take care of it. It’s really easy if someone else does it for you, isn’t it?


          • I am seriously asking this question. So who registered me and with whom did they register me? I didn’t register me, my husband certainly didn’t register me. My insurance is administered out of Washington DC, because that is where CareFirst Blue Cross FEP is based and where they administer the plan for the Mid-Atlantic states. When we lived in Pennsylvania we had the same insurance administered from the same Washington DC office. CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield FEP has administrative centers all across the country and well as in Europe. No matter where I have lived, and no matter where I move to – I will always have the same insurance, only the claims office will change.


            • At some point, someone chose your doctor. You didn’t just wander into your doctor’s office from the street. One of you selected your primary care physician. BC is approved in your state because they are approved wherever they choose to work — but they do NOT work in every place in the country. They didn’t work HERE until a couple of years ago. Boston, yes — Worcester County, NO. The moment they made their services available here, I joined. I think they are the best of the medical insurers.

              It’s easier when someone else takes care of all of this stuff, but life can take strange turns. What happens if your husband is the one who needs to be cared for and YOU are in charge? Just get a grip on the basics so in an emergency, you know what to do. The AARP is really good at helping people understand how medical plans work.

              I should add that you are probably fine with this insurance as long as you don’t move into a rural area where they don’t offer services — which is what happened to us when we moved out of Boston to The Country. I was actually shocked at what a huge difference NOT being in a city or suburb made to the availability of medical services. So don’t move to rural North Dakota. Or rural anywhere and you’ll be fine.


  3. I lived in Massachusetts (Boston) for only 8 months back in 2002 (interim job posting) and I found the medical system weird and quite frankly unmanageable. I didn’t understand the whole register with an entire medical system and being assigned a PCP – I just got an email last night that vaccination appointments were available in 3 locations near me including the J&J vaccine at a location approximately 1/2 a mile away. I jumped on that but I can’t say I pursued appointments – I registered with the county in February, and then again with the state when they took over vaccine distribution and then just forgot about it quite frankly. Yes, we are old (74) and yes we have underlying medical conditions but I simply could not get my shorts in a knot about it all. But then I have a ‘que sera, sera’ outlook on life LOL


    • They have greatly simplified the medical thing, so over all — not counting the vaccine fiasco — it’s as good a system as any state. Which is why the vaccination fiasco was so hard to understand. Garry is about to hit 79 and I’ve got a lot of replacement parts, including heart valves (two), breasts (two), pacemaker, and other stuff.

      If I’d been all that que sera about my health, I’d have been dead for at least 40 years. I’ve been almost dead too many times to get relaxed about staying alive. I didn’t spend all my time trying to find something, but I spent a longer than I should have needed to spend. This should have been very simple and I don’t understand why it wasn’t. If they’d set up the process in a sensible way, there was no need for it to be so complicated. I’m still baffled about it and wondering who is supposed to be in charge.

      Medically, though, at least in this state if you get sick and you are poor, you WILL get help. and it will be as good as the help anyone with a lot of money gets. To my way of things, that’s a very good thing.


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