Thanks to the COVID-19 Vaccine, I’m Back Where I Belong

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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“Chewie, we’re home.” 

Just as Han Solo uttered these words when he stepped aboard the Millennium Falcon in “The Force Awakens,” I felt a similar tinge of nostalgia and excitement upon returning to my favorite movie theater after an entire year. When I saw Pixar’s “Onward” at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in March 2020, I had no idea it would be my last venture to the big screen for quite some time. 

Prior to the pandemic, I’d go to movie theaters at least once a week. The Alamo has been my go-to spot in Raleigh, North Carolina since it opened in 2018, but I would frequently visit other multiplexes and indie theaters in my area. Often I’d go with friends and family, but I also enjoyed seeing movies by myself on weeknights after work. Despite the convenience of streaming movies at home or plowing through my collection of DVDs and Blu-rays, nothing compares to the sensation and pure joy of seeing a film in a theater. 

Amid the many things that I went without and missed dearly during COVID-19 isolation, movie theaters were at the top of my list. Yeah, I missed seeing friends and family, too, but I was really itching to see Godzilla and King Kong beat each other up on the big screen. 

Once I received confirmation of an appointment for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, I knew I was one step closer to returning to my second home. I didn’t want to be hasty and make any plans until I was fully vaccinated, but I began to feel hopeful again after a year of chaos and uncertainty. 

Getting the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine.(Courtesy of Kevin Schaefer)

As my mom and I waited in the drive-thru line for my first shot, I already felt a sense of relief. Wearing two “Star Wars” masks and a “Mandalorian” T-shirt, it was like “the Force” was flowing through me when the needle went into my arm. When I posted a picture on Instagram, of course I had to use the nerdy caption, “This is the way.” 

Not long after my second dose, every Alamo theater in the United States was showing all three films of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in honor of its 20th anniversary. Coupled with cast interviews hosted by Tolkien expert Stephen Colbert, the event had my name written all over it. 

I was fortunate to have zero side effects from either dose. I also didn’t feel any pain when the shots were administered. I’m aware that people have had varying reactions to the different vaccines, but I was quite relieved to get away easy this time. With this scientific breakthrough flowing through my veins, I was ready to start venturing into the world once again. 

Please note that I am still taking precautions anytime I go out and am only going to places that adhere to guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When I went to the theater, I went to a Sunday-night showing with a small audience, and the friends I was with were all vaccinated. I also kept my mask on except for when I sipped my drink or ate popcorn. 

Going home. (Courtesy of Kevin Schaefer)

It may sound absurd to some when I compare theaters to places of wonder and magic, akin to something spiritual. Yet for me, movies will always remain a key part of my identity. Whether I’m happy, sad, or just having an SMA kind of day, the cinema is a place of refuge for me from everything else. As I sat in the dimly lit theater to watch a movie I had seen more times than I can count, I was right at home. 

Now that we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, I hope that we can remain steadfast and beat this virus together. One day, we can all gather again in theaters to see the latest Pixar film or Marvel blockbuster, sharing the experience in a communal atmosphere.



Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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