Our Trip to the Vaccine Clinic

Sefie of Fiona and Makobe wearing masks at the vaccine clinic
Fiona Westner-Ramsay

I am the mom of Makobe, an 18-year-old with severe autism who lives at home with us in Muskoka.

My husband, Mike, works for Swift Canoe and Kayak, and we are the owners/operators of a local canoe paddle-making business, Badger Paddles.

I wish to share our vaccine story as a parent of a child with exceptionalities. We were  invited to get our vaccines this past week, and our family is beyond grateful for the experience.

Makobe is essentially nonverbal and is unable to express himself as a neurotypical teen would. We did all we could to prepare him for the small needle, but when it was his turn and the nurse came too close to his arm with the pointy end, he was unable to contain his fear and began to panic. He did not even want to remove his coat, in order to protect his arm!

After some coaxing, he finally exposed his arm for the nurse. But once again the panic set in, and he tried pushing the needle away and began to let out a rather high-pitched wail that I can only liken to a siren. His alarming vocalization was echoing off the walls of the arena, and just before I was about to give up hope, another nurse asked if she could do anything to help. While I held his hands, Makobe and our nurse both picked up on my spontaneous cue for a three, two, one countdown ... and before he could protest any further, the deed was done. (I think Makobe was quite surprised at how little he felt when the needle actually went into his arm) Success!

Except for that one loud and tense minute, Makobe did great. However, the real greatness was found in the team who walked us through the process that day and especially the kind and understanding nurse who never once showed judgment toward Makobe for his unusual behaviour, but did show true concern, compassion, and real acceptance.

Also, a warmest thanks to all our fellow community members who happened to be there during Makobe’s panicked moment but did not stare or do anything to make me or my son uncomfortable because of his odd behaviours. Every single one of you showed us kindness and acceptance.

While I do not know what any of your faces look like behind the masks, you are all beautiful to me. Thank you to the staff, the volunteers, and all those who were there to receive their vaccine. Sometimes people can make your whole day, but yesterday, the wonderful people who were present at the Huntsville Summit Centre Vaccine Clinic made our whole world.


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