Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Great Flu Scare of Aught-Nine

As I joined the 769 people in front of me on the track encircling the arena at the Rec Centre, watching the Zamboni do slow circles while our even slower circle of the would-be-vaccinted, I thought: I'm going to tell her this story someday.

I'll talk about the Great Flu of 2009, that flu that created so much panic: panic about whether the disease would be a mass killer; panic about whether the vaccine produced with such haste would be sufficient, whether it would be safe; panic about whether we could ever come in out of the rainy lineups and get The Shot before we got The Flu.

Was there a big lineup? Yeah, there was.

But not as bad as other days, from what I hear. And there was--can you believe it?--a rolling coffee cart:

I wound my way around the arena for 90 minutes to score a numbered wristband: 770. That was at 3:00. The Info People told me I could leave and come back later. Maybe try around 4:30 or 5, they suggested.

I called Pynchon, and he arranged to leave work early, just after four, to pick up Munchkin from daycare and meet me at the Centre. He would just drop her off, because parking was nearly impossible. We live so close to the centre that we could easily call him to come get us afterward, and he could be there in 5 minutes. A three-year-old shouldn't have to walk home after a flu shot, I think.

Munchkin hopped out of the car and into my arms. "Yay! I looooooove flu shots!" she shouted. Her last needle was at her 18 mos checkup, so she obviously didn't remember needles.

With our blue band, we marched right through three different checkpoints--public health employee! cop! paramedic!--and then right into the lineup for the nurse. In front of us, the same two 50-something women with emphysema who were directly in front of me earlier in the day. Only they had just stayed in the same line, from 1:30 until 5. All around me I saw toddlers and babies and nursing moms that I had seen at 1:30. Poor buggers. Munchkin had a ball eating a little bag of treats and mugging for the crowd. I have to say, the whole scene wa very organized: everyone knew what to do, the line was controlled, directions were clear, people were helpful.

And then the fire alarm went off.

People actually started laughing. The siren wailed and buzzed, but after about 30 seconds, a public health nurse got on the portable PA system (!) and told us to just wait for a minute. Then a minute later? It turns out one of those desperate or bored kids had pulled the alarm. Well, that's one way to try to get out of getting your flu. Nice try, but the flow of people was hardly interrupted at all.

The nurse very calmly showed me how to restrain Munchkin and everyone was all smiles. Munchkin watched the needle enter her arm, passively. The inject was half-done before she started to cry, not from fear but from pain: "Owwww, Mom! That hurts," she wailed, surprised and dismayed.

And then it was done. I lavished her with praise, and thanked the nurse. I had doudou and I had a little piece of compensatory chocolate and I even had a does of cherry-flavored Tylenol for her. I picked up her immunization record in the sit-and-wait area. She announced she didn't want to leave.

But then we went to "Old MacDonald's Restaurant" and there were My Little Ponies in her Happy Meal: a reward for a trial survived:

So it's done. I am relieved. Pynchon's not immunized yet; I'm not immunized yet. That's fine. It was the three year old I was worried about. And now I know I have done what it is possible for me to do.


Beck said...

The things we do for our kids' safety, eh? 2/3 of my kids are immunized - obviously, one of them with High Drama - but The Girl - the highest risk of all of my kids! - still isn't. I don't know WHAT do do.

Is her arm sore? Poor bunny.

Mimi said...

She went to bed before the Tylenol wore off, but she wouldn't take a bandaid, and to look at her you'd never know it was an injection site. The nurse said it will be sore tomorrow, but Munchkin likes ANY reason to have cherry-flavored Tylenol and a little maternal sympathy, so I'm not too concerned.

The Girl: can you get her to do it for The Baby? Who was so worried about her? That might be the Trauma Stick instead of the Guilt Stick, but that Girl! She gets SICK SO MUCH!

Omaha Mama said...

We're fairly certain that the kids had H1N1 when I did, mine was confirmed and we all caught it together. And's so hard to decide what to do about the immunizations! Sigh.
I even tried to get them the seasonal one this year and they've run out! So I'm just failing on the flu vaccination front this fall.

slouchy said...

i felt that same relief once my kids were vaxxed.

ruby rojo said...

Yeah, my son got his yesterday. But it was a decidedly more dramatic affair with lots of crying and finally having to wrestle him. Fun, fun. But he got v. happy when they gave him a juice box of orange juice, and just as we were leaving the sit and wait area, he announced, "I'm HAPPY now! I'm proud I got a needle!"

Jenifer said...

None of us are vac yet and I am worried...maybe next week if the lines are shorter I will give it a go. I can get Papoosie Girl who is is high risk only though...the baby has to see a doctor.

Very frustrating to think it is going to be done in several stages.

Cloud said...

I've got a post on our vaccinations brewing... the short version is it took three trips to the county health center to get us all vaccinated (Hubby and I qualify because we have a newborn at home). We all got the FluMist, even though I'm technically not supposed to because I have asthma. It is so mild, though, that I decided I'd just neglect to mention it. My risk analysis told me that the risk to me (and my newborn!!!) or me getting the flu was greater than the risk of an asthma attack from the vaccine, especially since I've never actually HAD an asthma attack.

Anyway, we're all vaccinated now, and boy, am I glad that is done.

Anonymous said...

OK, "I love flu shots!" made me laugh out loud. Not that shots are that bad, but that is clearly a kid who doesn't know much about flu shots. Which, you know, probably worked in your favour. Sadly, my own preschooler has seen her baby brother's immunizations, so she's wise to the whole thing.

I'm glad you were able to get it done, and that it was relatively smooth. Best wishes for continued good health! :)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

They did vaccinations at my kids' school today and ultimately I decided not to vaccinate my daughter. I am about 99% sure that we all had H1N1 -- for about a 2 week period my kids' school had 1/3 out sick, can you believe it? -- and it seemed like unnecessary trauma. I still feel a little odd about it, though, like I'm taking a huge risk. Sigh. How knows what's right to do?