I Went Into Anaphylactic Shock After My COVID Vaccine

by Rachel Hillestad
Originally Published: 
Rachel Hillestad/Facebook

A few days ago, I went into anaphylactic shock while driving after receiving my second COVID vaccine. (I had stayed for the entire 15 minutes after my vaccine for observation, but my reaction happened at 32 minutes.) I couldn’t breathe, and just happened to be at a stop light next to a random ER. Since then, I have been receiving messages asking me if my experience had changed my mind about vaccinations.

The answer is No.

It has occurred to me that people could use my experience as a reason not to vaccinate, or an anecdotal story supporting their previously held view. I wanted to rectify that. Everyone knows I believe that Vaccines Cause Adults. (It’s my favorite shirt. I love to wear it to Whole Foods and Children’s Mercy, for very opposite reasons.) I have dear friends whose children cannot be vaccinated due to terrible allergic reactions requiring things like life flights and extended stays in the hospital due to other mitigating factors. You friends know I love you dearly, and I see you! Make the best choice for your family.

Rachel Hillestad/Facebook

That said, I would absolutely get the vaccine again. When it’s available for my children, they will get it, too. I’ve got a blood clotting disorder passed down from both my parents (factor V Leiden) and there is emerging research that those whose blood is prone to clot with this particular disorder can have a higher incidence of blood clots that settle in the lungs due to COVID infection. I also have a daughter who can’t get COVID and end up in the hospital again with infectious disease physicians shrugging their shoulders at her. No thanks.

While I was sitting at the corner of College and Metcalf about 300 feet from the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, a building with ER emblazoned brightly on the side, I thought, “This would be the most ironic and dumbest way to die.” I considered running the light. (OK, truth time. I ran the light.)

Rachel Hillestad/Facebook

A friend whose husband is a doctor said that this kind of severe reaction happens in 1 of 5,000 individuals vaccinated. When boosters are available, I’ll have to take one that isn’t RNA. Yes. I’m so scientific!

After my daughter Phoebe was born and I nearly bled to death, a blood transfusion replaced half the blood in my body. The rate of occurrence for this type of thing happening to women who are having babies is 1 in 10,000. Does this mean I’d tell everyone to stop having babies? That would be silly. Everything we do involves a risk.

Anyway, I’d never had even a hint of an allergy before my blood transfusion. A few months after, I became allergic to a million different things and have undergone allergy immunotherapy in the form of weekly shots for the last two years. There’s emerging research that allergies can be passed from the donor to the recipient.

My anecdotal theory is that the adoration of coffee can also be passed along via blood transfusion. My sample size for the purposes of this study is exactly “one.” Before the transfusion, I would gag at the sight or smell of coffee. A few days after, it’s all I could think about, and I crave it now. I also developed a terrible penchant for binge-eating bananas, which I also found absolutely disgusting beforehand. On the other hand, maybe my body was just telling me I needed more potassium.

Rachel Hillestad/Facebook

I’m feeling better today; still swollen and achy.

If you have the chance to get the vaccine, please get it. My parents drove two hours to a random CVS in Missouri in order to get their first dose. My friend Krista tells me stories about watching African children with polio dragging themselves to the water well because their legs are completely nonfunctional. Whenever Doctors Without Borders arrive, parents will wait for HOURS or even DAYS to get their children the opportunity to be vaccinated. We are so privileged.

Don’t think I didn’t have the thought, “Of course I would be the person to die right next to an open ER in one of the most medically advanced countries in the world,” as I considered running the light to turn into the parking lot.

When you get the vaccine, stay the whole 15 minutes after that you are recommended to stay. I’ll be reporting my reaction to the manufacturer.

That’s my Fred talk. We’ll reserve the Ted talks for the actual medical professionals.

This post first appeared on Rachel Hillestad’s Facebook page.

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