Yesterday, Addie had her (belated) well-child check up. She was actually pretty excited to go; she even got dressed up in a super fancy dress. In Addie-adorable fashion, she smiled at everyone and answered all the questions that were asked of her in her sweet little voice.
I didn't tell her that she was going to get a flu shot, and she didn't know it was happening until it actually happened. She was quite sad by it, but it was nothing that half a dozen princess stickers couldn't fix. And a promised trip to get ice cream.
Since I was already in the doctor's office, I also got my flu shot yesterday.
Even though I'm all for vaccines, I'm not always very deliberate about getting my flu shot. If I'm at the doctor's office I get one. If I'm not...then, it might not happen. I do try to make sure the girls get theirs. A week long stay at Doernbecher Children's Hospital a few years ago made a strong impression on me that I would rather not experience again.
This year I was very deliberate about getting one.
I know people are afraid of vaccines, afraid of the chemicals in them, afraid of side-effects from receiving them. Certainly vaccines are not a perfect way to control a health crisis, but I feel pretty strongly that they are the best we have. And, as I mentioned on Facebook last week, I definitely would not want to live in a world where they didn't exist.
Yes, despite my general rule not to start serious topic debates on Facebook, a couple weeks ago I posted a link to an article about vaccines. It turned out okay--the discussion was fairly civil; no one threatened to burn down my house--but I know the vaccine discussion can get pretty intense, as does any topic where our fears come into play. I'm sure there are those who just don't care one way or another, but the way I see it, for a lot of people the decision on whether or not they choose vaccines boils down to one emotion: fear.
People don't vaccinate out of fear, and people do vaccinate out of fear.
Some might say that common sense and scientific objectivity play a role in there somewhere, but let's be honest: people pick and choose the science they believe based on their fears. I admit, the science I read compels me to support vaccines, but my own experiences are probably more compelling. When it comes to vaccines, stories are powerful things.
In fact, it's the story of what happened over Christmas break that made me determined to get the flu shot.
Over Christmas break, our family got a highly contagious tummy bug that had made the rounds on the Family Farm (and beyond). Some people got it worse than others, but in my family, the girls and I had it pretty light. A few hours of not feeling terrific, combined with vomiting, and then all was well.
Jason, however, was not so lucky.
He woke up sick on a Sunday, and unfortunately when vomiting is involved, Jason does not do well. He has a low resting heart rate; combine that with nausea, and you have a guy who faints. Just to keep things interesting, when he faints it looks like he has a seizure. I freaked out the first time. I freaked out the second time. But I haven't freaked out since then. Because twice--once several years ago, and again 18 months ago--doctors have told him, "It's just what your body does." I can handle it now. I will say that as the whole event is going down (literally), it looks really frightening. Seriously. If you saw it, it would freak you out. But now that I know it's no big deal, then I'm not scared. I have to pretend that he's actually okay, and reassure everyone that it's really no big deal. "Don't worry girls. Just go back to making bracelets on your rainbow loom. You know that's what Daddy does sometimes." Yes, that's what I actually said a couple weeks ago.
In fact, a few years ago, I found myself saying to a perfect stranger to whom moments before I had quickly handed 9-month old Addie: "Yeah, he just does that sometimes."
We were in the IKEA food court. Jason had just recovered from a stomach bug, and thought he was up for a shopping trip. We had dropped off Sydney and Jules in the play area, and were about to eat a little bit of lunch. Then Jason looked up at me and said, "I don't feel well. In fact, I feel really light headed."
I knew what was going to happen, and as it happened I had to react quickly to keep Jason from falling out of his chair. I looked up, saw a woman walking by and handed her Addie. "Can you? Just for a minute here?"
And within a moment, everything was okay, and I was thanking the woman and her family for their assistance. "Are you sure everything is okay?" she asked. "We would have called 911 except you looked so calm..."
It really was okay, but on the other hand, Jason would rather avoid it happening altogether.
Because when he fainted a couple weeks ago, he wasn't sitting at a table or lying in bed. He was standing. And he fell, and he hit his head, and smashed up his nose, and there was just a lot of blood and maybe a concussion.
There were also 3 little girls who saw, and the youngest of those 3 girls was so scared she didn't want to talk to Daddy for the rest of the day.
So a few days later, when Jason was all better, he got the flu shot. H1N1 is making the rounds quite fiercely in our area, and all things considered, Jason would probably be hospitalized if he got it.
I understand why people are afraid of vaccines. I do. We all have our own particular fears that we face in different ways. My fear is that Jason will injure himself. My fear is that someone whose immune system is not as strong as mine will get sick from an illness I gave them. My fear is that I could have done something to prevent an inconvenience--or worse yet, a tragedy--and I made the choice not to.
For sure, vaccines aren't the cure-all for everything. A vaccine is only effective about 80% of the time. But it's something. It's better than nothing.
If at the end of the flu season we all got through it unscathed and untraumatized and fully upright in the IKEA food court, then I will count that something as a big thing.