A shot in the arm

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspectiveproudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

I don't usually get the flu shot.

In fact, last year I was glad I didn't because much controversy emerged around it.

The other day I heard on the news  the emergency wards were overflowing with cases of this year's terrible strain. Health authorities were urging everyone to take advantage and get the free flu shot.

That didn't nudge me in the direction of getting the shot.

Then a friend in my apartment building e-mailed me that she had the flu and how terrible it was.  I volunteered to help in anyway I could. Groceries were what she needed. I said, "I'm glad to help but I hope you don't mind if I leave the provisions at your door.  I don't want to share your flu." 

She laughed, "Of course not, I understand".

A few days later she still had a fever. She was aching and shivering. Couldn't sleep at night because of the discomfort. Her son informed her this would continue for several more days.

After hearing all this I phoned Family Medicine at St Joseph's Health Centre and made an appointment for a flu shot.

The next day as I entered the Health Centre the nurse took me into a small room.  Sat me down and asked me what changed my mind about getting the flu shot.

I told her the story of my friend. She asked "have you ever had a flu shot before?"  I really couldn't remember. She then gave me a form to fill out and as she left the room said, "if you don't know the answer to the questions it would probably be no." Then she left.

I looked at the questions and started to have second thoughts. Are you allergic to this or that? What was your reaction to the last flu shot? How the hell would I know? I've never had one before. Are you allergic to? words I have never heard of.  Oh well, as she suggested just put no to everything.

Then came the doosie, please sign here for consent. Holy Cow!  What am I consenting to?That they are not responsible if something happens?

I signed and started to feel uneasy.

The nurse returned, needle in hand.

"Left or right handed?"  Right, I replied. She rolled up my sleeve to get to the shoulder.  Oh, you have some nice muscles here. I replied yes I go swimming three times a week.

Do you take blood thinners, or just an aspirin. Just the latter. I added "And coversal for high blood pressure, as I guess you noticed".

Before I knew it into that nice muscle went the needle.

Wasn't so bad after all.

All finished? I asked.  Yes, now don't leave the hospital for at least fifteen minutes in case you have a reaction.

"Pardon?" I said. Then immediately started to perspire.

Like feeling dizzy, or faint, she replied, we just want to make sure.

Okay I said I'll go have lunch in the cafeteria

"Oh,  by the way," the nurse added as I was leaving, "this doesn't mean you won't get sick, there are many strains out there this shot is just against one".

I looked back wide eyed and headed for the cafeteria.

As I selected my  lunch I kept waiting for symptoms.

Seems okay.
Then, "Am I dizzy or just light headed because I'm hungry?"
I checked my watch, waiting for fifteen minutes to go by.

Then I heard this ringing, or humming in my ears. Oh, my gosh here it comes. It was like a steady high pitch.

Perspiration started again, I thought oh well, I'm in the right place, here in the hospital.

Then all of a sudden it stopped.

I realized, with a grin on my face, it was the various cooling machines in the cafeteria.

By now three quarters of an hour had gone by. 

Safe, I said to myself, and left with just a slightly sore muscle in my shoulder.

But then, all of a sudden, one of the questions from the form I signed flashed through my brain, "Have you had a reaction three to six months after your last shot?"

I won't have an answer to that until next year.

My Parkdale.