Running the Numbers (#320)

Everything carries a risk.

Walking outside exposes you to pollution, pollen, an aging population that refuses to give up their cars until they kill people.

Staying inside? You risk depression and poor physical health without sunlight, nature, human contact, and exercise.

Getting married? Well, for heterosexual men it’s a win; you live longer and you’re happier.

For heterosexual women? Your partner is the most likely person to murder you. Even if he doesn’t, your life expectancy is shorter (but that’s okay because you’re more miserable than single women).

I’m apparently something of a risk-taker. I brave the great outdoors on a regular basis. Despite nearly being run over IN THE CROSSWALK by hundreds of old folks in big cars, a dozen moms dropping their kids off at school, and multiple bicyclists.

I’m a heterosexual woman who got married—even after watching the extraordinary marital train wrecks of multiple parental units.  I’m still married (possibly it’s my husband who fears being murdered by his wife and RIGHTLY SO).

I even survived pregnancy. 17 out of every 100,000 American women don’t, which is the highest maternal mortality rate in industrialized nations and a goddamned travesty.

I take birth control pills, which puts me at a 0.03%  to 0.09% risk for a blood clot. (But since I’m not a complete adrenaline junkie, I don’t drink or smoke, which increase the risk.)

Most recently, I got the “risky” COVID-19 vaccine. No, no, not AstraZeneca—that one is super risky, with a .00065% chance of causing a blood clot. I got the J&J shot— which carries a blood clot risk of .00086% (if you round up).

When I got the shot, of course, no one yet knew the Johnson & Johnson vaccine posed that risk. About a week after my shot, the U.S. paused use of the vaccine.

Birth control pills are still being dispensed, as are guns, which increase risk of death by homicide (2%) and suicide (10% for males with guns in the house) .

Despite the above numbers and snark, I’m not opposed to the J&J pause. Treating these blood clots like other blood clots by using heparin can make them worse. All physicians should be made aware of the potential issue and side effects—especially since the clots appear mostly in women. Doctors have a history of not taking medical complaints of women—especially Black women—seriously.

Still, with such infinitesimally low odds, who would worry more about getting a blood clot from the vaccine than dying of COVID-19 itself (.25% to 20% risk depending on age, health, nationality)?

Apparently I would. Last week at 5:30 AM, I was on the floor of my bathroom, certain I had a clot in my left leg. It hurt to move. I was clearly going to die. My child would be motherless. Worse, son and husband would be referee-less! No one would remember to fill the pets’ water bowls and they would die, too!

I reminded myself that if I hadn’t gotten a blood clot when I was pregnant and stupid (.2% chance), I wasn’t likely to get one now. The pain eventually faded.

It was probably a cramp from kneeling on the cold tile floor in order to beat back an ant invasion.

But if it had been a blood clot?

The smart money would have been on my birth control pills.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

34 thoughts on “Running the Numbers (#320)”

  1. As a smart (and snarky) friend of mine said: Birth control is a slutty woman’s issue so no one cares about that. Amen.

    Living in South Africa, where J&J is the only vaccine we currently have (since Astra Zeneca doesn’t work on the SA variant), and has now been paused for more than a week, I am so freaking confused and outraged by this situation. Have the world’s national health departments forgotten how to do math?

    1. Right? But the maternal mortality rate is through the roof–do they think only slutty women die in childbirth? I guess Americans would care more if the baby died.

      It’s a tougher call in countries where there aren’t other vaccine options. Here, anyone can get a shot of Pfizer or Moderna, so stopping the J&J vaccine makes sense. But my friends and other countries, especially those with health conditions, are understandably upset. The U.S. is currently hogging most of the vaccines and we’re not even using 1/3 of them!

  2. My step-daughter got the J&J about 3 weeks ago. No side effects at all compared to a really lousy day after that I had with Moderna. No drama. She wasn’t worried but then again she can do math.

  3. I was secretly hoping for a Pfizer shot but would have taken anything they gave me. All the experts are saying the infinitesimal risks associated with the J&J vaccine are far less than those from COVID.

    Also, I had no idea that 17% (!) of American women die during childbirth. That seems incredibly high!

    1. Oh, damn, thanks for pointing out my error. It’s actually 17.4 women dying per 100,000, which changes the percentage radically (still terrible, though, and much more likely to kill women than a COVID vaccine). In so many cases, especially for Black women, no one listens to them. Even Serena Williams nearly died when the medical staff ignored her insistence that she had a blot clot.

      1. Whew! I was going to say, if there were a 17% chance of dying during childbirth, there wouldn’t be an overpopulation problem anymore. Nobody would be brave enough to put their life on the line with odds like that!

  4. I remember when I was on the pill a friend was all about the risk of it, complete with stats. I smiled, nodded my head, and went on with my life doing what I thought was best for me. I feel the same way about these vaccinations. I’ve had my first shot and waiting for my second one. Odds are it’ll all be fine. If I stopped to worry about every risk I’d never get up in the morning.

    1. It’s true, sometimes you just have to say, “Screw it,” and do the thing.

      But even though I am not a numbers person (clearly!), I do find them to be a solid counterargument when dealing with an imagination that always jumps to the worst possible scenario.

  5. I am impressed with how funny your post is when the subject and the statistics are so dire. At this point my main concern is how to survive old age after living through marriage, childbirth and the Covid shots.

    1. I find it so interesting that you have an Asian husband and a half Asian son yet you aren’t talking about anti-Asian racism on your blog, but do talk about anti-black racism. Hypocrite much?

      1. Welcome back Svetlana Li aka Svetasbooks aka Jeni aka Alana. (Did I miss any other aliases?) And thank you for clarifying your earlier comment about me being a hypocrite. I couldn’t tell if it was referring to taking the vaccine or something else entirely.

        If you check out Twitter, where I am most active, you will find tweets and retweets calling out Asian-American hate. Sometimes it’s better to amplify Asian-American voices rather than inserting my own. Same goes for #MMIW or #BLM or supporting trans children (your most favorite cause, as I recall).

        Have a nice day.

        1. Who is this Svetlana Li aka Svetasbooks Aka Jeni aka Alana? I have no idea who you are talking about.

          1. Why aren’t you talking anti-Asian hate on your blog I want to know? You made big and wonderful posts about how to support BLM, yet I don’t see any effort of that in your blog Towards Asian Americans?

            1. I have no problem engaging in reasonable debate or responding to genuine questions. But I’m not here for trolling, insults, demands, or whataboutisms. I am not engaging and I encourage others to refrain as well.

            1. Huh, never heard of her…never even met her. Also, I don’t read Twitter and don’t care for Twitter. But ok, ignore my question. I will see you as I will.

                1. Lol wow, you figured out my name! I read it in my teens. Lol my favorite is Raistlin Majere 😀

  6. As a middle aged woman I found this a thrilling post…previously I thought I led a quiet and dull life…now I realise it’s as stuffed with danger, like an explorer in the jungle or someone canoeing the rapids…how adventurous I am after all!

  7. Lots of interesting statistics. We are notorious for being afraid of the wrong things. For example: the lifetime chance of being killed by a shark is 1 in 3.75 million. We’re more likely to be killed in a bike accident or by a champagne cork, fireworks, a ladder, a lawnmower or a sand-hole collapse.

    I got the Pfizer vaccine, I love its statistics. J & J also has good stats.

  8. I find it amusing that people will selectively understand math/statistics. They fully realize the 1 in 675 million or so chance of winning the lottery is microscopic, but still entertaining to spend that 40$ a week on scratch offs. But then fail to understand how compound interest over time can help save for retirement, how that 40$ a week could turn into a more comfortable life if utilized in a more constructive fashion.

  9. Your snarky posts always give me a good laugh! The comment about being a heterosexual woman is fantastic and so on the money, haha. I never thought about it that way.

    J&J was paused literally the day after I got it. Although I also trust the numbers, like you, I was paranoid about having a blood clot every other day. I had intense neck pain and slight headaches with the J&J vaccine, so I was convinced my arteries were clogging and I would die.

    But hey, we’re both ok!

    Perhaps pausing J&J was the right thing to do, but I just read a statistic that said 70% of people are not hesitant to take J&J after the blood clot issue… sigh!

    1. Yes! We are both okay and we both clearly have a streak of hypochondria. Or anxiety. Or imagination. Or something.

      At least I’d made it through a week before they paused the shot. Otherwise I’d have felt like I was dying much earlier, I am sure.

      Yeah, as rare as those blood clots are, the news certainly has no helped the vaccination efforts. Even though the second shot of either Pfizer or Moderna is supposed to be unpleasant.

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