So when the pandemic hit, I had already planned my trip for September 2020 … Algeria, Cyprus and Malta. Obviously that did not happen, but I was incredibly optimistic once vaccines started rolling out that September 2021 would allow me to return to my usual pattern of travel and to rebook my prior planned trip. Uh … think again. I never anticipated that so many would rebel (to put it politely) against the vaccine, and I never thought we would be continuing this roller coaster of a pandemic almost two years in.
But … the vaccines personally gave me some hope. I thought once I was vaccinated, I might be able to go on at least part of my prior planned trip. I realized fairly early on in 2021 that Algeria was out because of its low vaccination rates and continued closure to tourists. However, I thought Malta and Cyprus were doable once I was double vaxxed. That hope soon faded when I learned that the COVID vaccines for the immunosuppressed (like me) may not provide much protection. In fact, on the day of my second vaccination (thanks Pfizer), I received a call from some numbskull in the Swedish Hospital fundraising department telling me that I shouldn’t plan on traveling any time soon because studies were showing that those with transplants on immunosuppression drugs were not generating antibodies to enable them to be protected from the virus. (And yes, this was some lay person calling me on the phone to tell me this … NOT my doctor.). I won’t bore you with the details of my outrage at Swedish, but suffice is to say, I am pretty sure the idiot who called me did not sit for a few days as I ripped him a new one for calling me.
Anyway, after a number of calls with my doctor, lots of my own research and one antibody test I paid for because my doctors wouldn’t order it, I found out the two Pfizer vaccines left me with no antibodies. Now that didn’t necessarily mean I didn’t have any protections – there are other parts of our immune system (t cells and B cells) that can provide protection – but the initial line of defense was not present and there was no cheap way to find out about the other cellular protections.
So … after determining that one of the drugs I take, myoconophenolate, was the culprit, I figured out what I needed to do. I won’t go into it here, but suffice is to say one less drug in my system and two more shots later (thanks Moderna), I took another test and … SUCCESS. I measured antibodies > 2,500, which is off the charts good.
And that led me to where I am today … sitting in a hotel room in Malta arriving shortly after 7:00 p.m. on September 19. Now Malta is 80+% vaccinated and has very low transmissions, but the same cannot be said for Cyprus. As a result, I had to postpone Cyprus at the last minute due to COVID concerns and lower vax rates. And this last minute change meant I had to book a different hotel for 5 nights because my original hotel could not accommodate me. As a result, I will be changing hotels on Friday to one with views to the Mediterranean. In the mean time, I am in the heart of old town.
Now, it was not easy to get here. I had to jump through lots of hoops, including taking a 72 hour COVID test before departure, uploading my vaccine certificate and COVID test certificate to iFly, completing two personal locator forms (one for the UK and one for Malta), booking two COVID tests for my return (one for UK and one for US), and having my temperature taken on arrival in Malta. However … after all that, I was thrilled when the tiny island came into view through the window of the plane and upon landing passed through immigration and the medical check point without issue. I had made it! I am here for two weeks. I plan to do some hiking, a food tour, a day on the water on a catamaran and four days of tours all around Malta.
I will be posting lots of pictures and doing some blogging. I am so excited to be back in my happy place and traveling again and look forward to sharing my trip with everyone.