Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Immunizations: Then & Now

Pinehurst: Shots

Does anyone remember lining up for "Shots" - these were not gun shots, and not drink shots, but immunization shots. Everyone who was due for their shots were lined up and herded to the nurses office. There the nurse or two and a doctor would be waiting with huge hypodermic needles long enough to stick "clear through" a grade-schooler's arm. Some kids would start whimpering along the way, other's would wait until it was their turn, and pass out.

I noticed early on that a lot of kids dreaded those shots. I didn't. To me it was no big deal - a little pin prick, a band-aid, and it was over. I must have felt badly for the scared kids - especially the boys. They weren't supposed to cry or faint, but some of them did. I don't know when I started, but I would volunteer to go first. FIRST!

Some of the guys ahead of me would sigh "Relief" - because they didn't have to set the example for the rest of the class. It was the only time I was heroic. I'm not sure that anyone else saw it that way, but I figured if I went first, and said, "There's nothing to it." It would embolden the boys - after all, I was just a girl. It would also put me through first, so I wouldn't be there to witness the tears and fainting of any classmates who followed. (Especially the boys.)

Now-a-days, they don't give immunizations at school. I'm not sure why. Maybe they had to stop when they had to give up corporal punishment. Maybe it wasn't allowed, because it humiliated some of the kids and adults were no longer allowed to do that. Maybe the doctors got greedy, and decided it was best for them to charge an office visit and mega-bucks for each shot. The kids could come to them instead of them taking a day to hang out at the school for hours shooting hundreds of frightened, whiny kids.

Maybe they stopped because of the "free" immunizations clinics that sprung up all over in the '70s with the planned parenting freebies. Now, instead of a doctor doing "school" calls, he could let the kids come to him with their parents and all their siblings to get their booster shots. Now the parents could deal with their own kids passing out and crying. No more humiliation in front of their peers. No more nurses trying to drag the children close to the doctor. No more red eyes in the classroom. . .

Instead, the parents are humiliated. Have you ever gone to a county clinic for "free" shots? The worst one I ever went to was in California - San Bernadino County. I can't remember where it was located, but there must have been 30 people - mostly women and children, stuffed into a warm room about 10' x 15' all waiting for hours to see the doctor.

Now when mom's take their child to get an immunization, they have to drag along all the other babies and pre-schoolers in the family. This place was packed with crying, screeching, yelling kids. I thought I would lose my mind. I only had 2 with me; the under 1 yr old shot-ee and her 3 yr old sister. I checked us in, and looked for a seat. There were a few seats filled with people and stuff. There were bodies everywhere, and no place for an adult to sit down. Finally, someone got up to go to the back, and I was able to secure one chair for the 3 of us.

I am not fond of my kids playing on the floor of a public place with a hundred other snotty nosed children. We came to prevent disease, not to pick it up, but the odds were against us. I mean, there were kids drooling and sneezing and wiping their noses on anything available, then touching, touching, touching everything and everyone within reach. I tried to keep my two as close to me as possible in the over heated room. (There should have been air-conditioning, but either it wasn't working - or the combined bodies with all their BTUs stuffed into such a small space was over powering the system.) It was sticky and fragrant, but not in a good way.

We waited and we waited. More people came, but no one left. I think the doctor and nurses had all gone to a leisurely lunch at a posh restaurant with great air-conditioning and quiet ambiance. They were sipping on cool drinks and taking small bites of gourmet cuisine and chewing and chewing and chewing each bite. I went up to the little window and asked, "How much longer?"

"You'll just have to wait your turn."

Fortunately, the girls had held my seat. I sat down and let them wallow on my lap. It was hot. I was tired. No one was moving out. More people were coming in. Finally, one large family went back, and others quickly scooped up their territory. And we waited.

We were there about an hour and a half before we were called back for the 5 minute procedure. Why did it take sooooo long? I had a migraine, and I determined then and there - that I would NEVER, EVER, go to a public immunization clinic again.

I was so determined to avoid that place, that my youngest got behind in her immunizations. I even had a doctor chew me out when I went to catch her up before vacation. I don't know why some people chew you out - after you have decided to do the right thing. I mean, I was there, in his office for her to get her shots, and he's chewing me out! So, we got her boosters, and I changed doctors. From that time on - I avoided the clinics. . .until we moved to Idaho. At least the clinic here is spacious, and you can't get lost in the crowd. The wait is only about a half-hour, and they don't chew you out for coming. Regardless, most of the immunizations we have obtained have been in a private doctor's office. Sure, they charge a lot more than a clinic, but we are paying for the ambiance.


Jackie's Garden said...

OMG! This made me think about lining up to get the small pox shot. At that time, they poked your arm 4,522 times, I'm sure! (well, it felt like it, anyway)

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

I remember that - not getting the shot, but the shot itself. It made a huge scab that itched, and you weren't supposed to pick it. Those who picked it had a bigger scar than the rest of us. Mine is high on my left arm, near the shoulder.

raymond pert said...

The highlight of my days getting shots was when I got a booster or a polio shot and the blasted needle got stuck in my arm. It dangled there. Finally, they eased it out (or called the Zanetti Brothers to bring in some heavy equipment and pull it out!) It seems like that happened at the court house, not during school shots.

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

The court house? In Wallace? Hummm. . .I can't believe the needle got stuck. Maybe it was used. I think they used to recycle the needles (sterilized of course). Maybe yours was bent. . .twisted!

Love the comment about Zanetti Bros. :)

I don't remember getting polio shots - I do remember when we drank the liquid, then they finally gave us sugar cubes with the live vaccine inside. They were distributed in little paper nut cups.