Dizziness. And an itchy rash on the left side of my face. Since getting the first vaccine on May 7th, those are the side effects I’ve had. Not often, but enough to notice. The first dizzy episode occurred on May 15th. I was sitting with the kids on the floor of the Gare du Nord train station eating a Five Guys cheeseburger when a weird sensation suddenly overcame me. It didn’t last long, but it involved dizzyness and an overall odd feeling that invaded my body. It went away as quickly as it had come. About ten days later, same thing. But last night coming home from work, I nearly fainted in the metro. That’s when I decided to stop, or at least postpone, the Covid shots. Because I’m convinced that they and the episodes are related.
It’s true that I was overloaded last night. It was warm and I was wearing a facemask. But I’m often overloaded with groceries when I go food shopping, it’s never been a problem before. I don’t own a car. All my groceries go into a knapsack on my back and I usually carry two bags, one in each hand, as well. So last night after work, I took the metro from the foodstore. I was wearing the heavy knapsack on my back and carrying two bags, one in each hand. My handbag was slung around my torso. It was warm in the train, but not hot. I felt good – great, actually – because I’m on vacation for a week. I got off at my stop and headed to the stairs amid a small crowd of other passengers (it was rush hour.) It was when I began climbing the steps that things got weird.
Suddenly they began wavering (the steps) and I felt an uncontrollable sensation of falling onto them. Then I realized that I was indeed falling, or maybe lurching is a better word. I completely lost my balance and fell forward onto my knees. Everything was spinning and swimming around me and I heard the thud of the two bags (filled with groceries) on the steps. I felt sure that I was going to black out. The feeling of having no control over your body – especially in a public place, especially on the stairs in a tunnel in the Paris metro! – is terrible. Suddenly a hand gripped my left arm and I heard a woman’s voice behind me. “Ça va, madame? Ça va?” Grasping my arm, she held me steady. The fainting feeling went away and I felt OK again. I managed to get up and continue walking up the stairs. The whole incident lasted just a few seconds. Naturally, I thanked the woman profusely. After that, I felt fine and walked home, feeling a little shaken but OK. My knees hurt.
The kindness of strangers! Throughout my life I have been the recipient of this, and I am deeply grateful.
I believe that these small infrequent episodes are a reaction from the Covid vaccine (Pfizer). Why do I think that? Because I’ve never had them before – ever. Why now? Oh, and as I also mentioned, I keep scratching my skin on the left side of my face. The occasional dizzy spell and itchy skin, I can handle. But near-fainting in the Paris metro? No way. That’s where I draw the line.
As an aside, the familiar term for “fainting” in French is “tomber dans les pommes” (to fall into the apples).
Codicil – I understand that some people might interpret the above as irresponsible (declaring that I won’t be taking a second Covid vaccine – for now.) From the minute I step out of my apartment to when I return at night, I wear an FFP2 mask. I practice social distancing. I wash my hands several times a day and clean all surfaces with antiseptic wipes. I’m the one at the office who wipes down the photocopy machines, coffee machine and all the door handles and regularly sprays antiseptic freshener into the air. The above is merely an account of my own personal experience. I will see a doctor and, no doubt, eventually get a second Covid shot.
So this morning I went to my local Town Hall to get fingerprinted and provide documents for my new French passport. Oddly enough, I’d never been to my Town Hall before. For newcomers to this blog, getting a French passport was never an intention of mine, I was perfectly happy with my British passport that granted me European citizenship and allowed me to happily live and work within the EU (European Union.) But Brexit brought an end to that privilege. Overnight, British passport-holders found themselves stripped of European citizenship. It took me two years to obtain French nationality and become European again.
So I was sitting in front of a civil servant this morning (at the Town Hall) handing her the required documents. When I gave her my photos, she looked at them and said, “These are no good.”
“What?” I said rudely. Quoi ? Why? What’s wrong with them?
“Your ears aren’t showing.”
I just stared at her while an inner voice warned me to keep my cool. After years and years of dealing with French civil servants and l’Administration française (the French bureaucracy system), I have developed a very short fuse.
“I have read very carefully the guidelines for passport photographs,” I said calmly. “And nowhere did I see any mention of the necessity of showing your ears.”
“Si!” she replied jubilantly. Si means “yes” to a negative. She pounced on a document pertaining to photographs and showed me two words that said “visage dégagé“. Mentally, I was trying to translate “dégagé” into English. Cleared. Unrestricted. Literally, a cleared or unrestricted face.
“So what does that mean?” I said defiantly. “To me, it means no glasses, no face covering, no hair in your face …”
“Mais non!” she exalted, “It means your hair behind your ears!” I’m convinced that French civil servants revel in this stuff, I’ve seen it over and over again. Little Napoleons, all of them. You give them a shred of power and they milk it for all its worth.
By this time, two colleagues of hers came over and now we were four. I stood my ground. “Look!” I said, showing them my British passport, “Showing your ears for a British passport isn’t necessary!”
As if they cared. They barely glanced at the photo. “Madame,” the civil servant warned me sternly, “Either you go now and bring us back new photographs in which we can see your ears, or we will cancel your appointment and you’ll have to wait two to three months for a new rendezvous.”
“OK, OK …” I conceded. I know when I’m outnumbered. It was me against the French Republic. I stood up. “But just out of curiosity, why is it so important that one’s ears are visible in a passport photograph?” I was not given an answer. I limped to Monoprix up the road (my right knee hurt from last night) and got new photos done.