The San Diego Kaiser COVID-19 Chronicles: Robots, Earthlings and Angels

by on January 28, 2021 · 8 comments

in Health, Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Colleen O’Connor

What keeps America together?  See for yourself.

“Look at the people that are on the ground. That’s who represents America,” says Admiral William McRaven; the man who oversaw the Bin Laden raid.

Look at the great story of the Oregon health workers who got stuck in a snowstorm on their way back from a COVID-19 vaccination event and went car to car injecting stranded drivers before several of the doses expired.

That “impromptu vaccine clinic” is a prime example of who represents America.  Those are the angels among us.  As I discovered myself.

Starting from the beginning.

8 a.m., the phone rings.  No identifying name, but a “Spam Alert” scroll.  I hang up.  The call repeats two more times.

I try voicemail and get this message.  “You are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.  Call this number.”

Quite happy about the possibility of getting the exceedingly rare dose, I call the number and reach a robot.  Press “1” for English and a long message about COVID-19 compliance.

Then, “If you wish to speak to a service representative, press “1” for diabetes, “2” for depression and “3” for some other malady. Having none of these conditions, I assumed I misdialed and dial three more times.  Same robot recording.

So, anxious now to get the vanishing vaccine, I finally press “1” for diabetes.  Voila, I get a human voice.  An earthling answers and I explain my dilemma.

She asks, “Are you available for an appointment today?”  “YES,” I enthusiastically reply and sign up for the first opening: 1:10 that afternoon.  “Check-in 10minutes early. Wear a mask.  Park in the garage.  Go straight to lobby.”

I kindly suggested that they might try adding “#4 COVID-19 Vaccine” to the robot message.  A giggle responds, “We can’t.  We were just commandeered for this task this morning.”

“Thank you for being at work.   I will be there.”

Not much time. I rush to my car. Only to discover no keys.  No spare keys, either. An hour later, I speed away.

The GPS robot directs and signs off, “The address in on your right. You have arrived at your destination.”

20 minutes late for the appointment, I literally run from the parking garage, to the lobby, am directed to a tent, handed a clipboard, fill out forms, temperature okayed, sign waiver and then directed indoors.  Super-efficient.

Inside, a long corridor (with a long table staffed with about 6 or 7 women), one of whom signals me forward with a small, pom-pom.  I apologize and explain the key episode.  Genially, she begins with questions, inputs all quickly to the computer.  All the while smiling – and others admitting they often do the same.

Gathering my own intelligence (as my father always coached) I asked how many vaccines have the administered already.  Over 500 thus far. Impressive.

Instructions: “Go down that corridor, turn right and wait for the escort.”

Another long passageway, a group of about 6-8 patients dutifully wait. All rather frail.  All led, patiently, by a young man who said “follow me.”  First, a long hallway, then turn down another, past the coffee shop, then to an elevator, then another jaunt.

One older woman was making a superhuman effort to keep up and go the distance on her walker and reluctant feet.  Another man on crutches struggled to keep pace, but never complained.

Another pom-pom staffer signals us to a vaccine station with nurse and attendant.  Remarkably swift.  The nurse was brilliant; couldn’t feel anything.

Then directed to yet another long hallway, with many dozens of chairs (all six feet apart), to wait the fifteen minutes to rule out bad reactions.  “Take a seat. Check your watch or Smart phone.  After 15 minutes you can leave.  Just wait for the escort at the door.”

I take the closest seat. No clocks on the wall, and in keeping with my day, I forgot my phone in the car.

A bit later, the elderly women with the walker turns the corner.  Clearly struggling with breath and struggling to stand, I bounce up; gave her my seat and saw such a tearful look of appreciation as she whispers thank you, that I feel beyond humbled.

At my new perch, an older man, diligently reading the CDC information papers we have been given, asks a passing nurse questions. As he is slightly deaf, I can hear the Q&A clearly.

Q&A: “What do I do with this after I leave?”

“If you experience any symptoms, just scan the barcode for answers.”

“I don’t have a smart phone.”

“Well, then.  Just google it.”

“I don’t have a computer. And why does the CDC need me to call then?“

“They will call  you every day for about 2 weeks and ask about your symptoms.  It is data collection.” The nurse is gentle, clear and had the patience of a saint.

Seated across the way, a very frail woman, rummages through her small bag and begins in a voice as tiny as she is:

“How do I find my doctor to call?”

“You should have the number on your Kaiser card.”

She rifles through her tiny purse, finds the card and asks “Where?”

“There it is,” answers the nurse, “right here on the back.”

“But that is not my doctor,” at which the nurse solves and salves. The patience and kindness and softness of each encounter I witnessed defies description.

I leave my seat, walk down the hallway to wait for the escort to let me leave.

Sitting across from me is a couple, most likely in their 90s or above.  She remarks how happy she is to have received the vaccine so fast.  It has “morphed,” you now.  “We have to beat it.”

Back to the parking garage, I can’t find my car.  Wandering the aisles berating myself, but marveling at the robots for getting me there, the earthlings for their fortitude and for this story, and the Kaiser frontline angels for such kindness.

What a remarkable group of professionals.

Me, hapless, hopeless, and now genuinely humbled.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Wood January 28, 2021 at 2:53 pm

Coleen: Good to hear how nicely the Kaiser staff treated you and other patients. You must be over 75 years old. From reading their website, it looks like Kaiser is still limiting vaccines to healthcare workers and patients over 75. I am 73 years old, so they won’t let me sign up for an appointment, even though the state and the county have lowered the eligibility age to 65 years old. Hopefully, Kaiser will obtain enough vaccine to start serving that group, and will vaccinate me.


cmo January 28, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Yes, the staff was terrific. I think they will move down the age line rather quickly. And the J&J vaccine (one shot) might be available next week. I have friends in Colorado and Monterey and elsewhere that are 75 plus and can’t get any vaccine.

I suggest texting your doctor and let them know you are available and interested. It is amazing to me me how many people do not want the vaccine!


Cindy January 28, 2021 at 5:09 pm

I’m not 75 or yet 65 but have some underlying conditions so I asked my Kaiser Physician about the vaccine. She recommended checking with the County of San Diego site as they are getting far more vaccines then Kaiser and many other health care providers. The County is currently giving providing vaccines for Healthcare workers and all others in Phase 1A, Tiers 1-3. They are also providing vaccines for persons aged 65 years old and above in Phase 1B, Tier 1. Good information to know if your health care provider is not providing vaccines for your Phase or Tier yet.


Ann January 28, 2021 at 5:43 pm

I and my husband have asthma, diabetes and I am also physically handicapped. Made appt with Petco Park day after Newson ordered for 65 yr old to get vaccine. Got someone to drive us – (cost us to get there). Went early and was forced to leave !!?? WTH Handicapped and co morbidity apparently doesn’t mean a dam thing ! I cannot leave my car to wait in a line because of hip injury that I have not been able to attend physical therapy due to lockdowns etc. So now what do I do ? Even Mayor Gloria’s office did nothing ….I am really feeling discriminated !? Am I wrong…. how is this right p.s. I have tried using the account they gave me thru UCSDmychart and it throws me off the website doesn’t allow me to make appointment…? Do no Harm, riiiight ?


com January 28, 2021 at 6:37 pm

Yes. The county is getting the most vaccines. And if you have underlying conditions you should be eligible for the shotes. Try the County and/or the UCSD PetCo Park drive-through site. I understand Sharp Chula Vista has some does. Plus, the new J&J one shot vaccine may be available soon.
Keep checking. Be safe. You could get lucky.


comic January 28, 2021 at 6:39 pm is a pilot program that might help with finding your place for vaccination.
See: the article on OBRag about this.
Good luck.


sealintheSelkirks January 30, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Up here in my corner of Washington State the rural mountain county is signing people up but I don’t know a single person who has gotten their first shot. My 77 yr old retired biologist neighbor and his wife will let me know when they get called, though I do understand the vaccines are starting to be given down in Spokane (different county). The Astro-Zenica (sp?) vaccine has now been tagged with being only for those under 65, something about immune system side effects in the older population but I didn’t quite catch all that information from the MD-hosted Covid19 show on the local community radio last Thursday and haven’t looked it up yet online.

I looked the other day and I can still see the Smallpox Virus vaccine mark on my arm…but the show also mentioned that there is roughly 25% of the US population that is going to refuse including not allowing the inoculation of their children. If that is truly the case (quite possible given the results of the election), we are not going to be able to knock this virus down like Polio or Smallpox any time soon if at all. Given the mutation strains now showing up across the planet that are far more infectious like the two British ones, the Brazilian strain, and now the South African confirmed in South Carolina, we are in for a very very rough ride here, folks, for at least another couple of years.

And these people, these anti-vaxxers, have no concept of history that let them grow up free of Smallpox and Polio. A severe failing of our public education system I’m afraid…under-educated covidiots with no real understanding of the science is very bad.



cmoc January 30, 2021 at 5:21 pm

I agree, it may be years and the lack of education (maybe basic science) and little or no knowledge of history causes unnecessary illness and deaths in the middle of the pandemic.

I know people way older than 65 that have gotten appointments only to have them cancelled, due to a lack of the vaccine. And I have no idea why teachers are not being vaccinated asap.

Thanks for your comments. They track with all I know.


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