We were going to discuss needles; now that the baby is out of earshot, let us do so. A baby requires three sets of injections – three combo shots for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio and the bacterium that causes meningitis – within the first six months of life. The first set is a bit of a shock: two nurses hold the baby down and then simultaneously (on three: one, two…) jab needles in each thigh. Three! The baby stiffens in shock, his face twists into a parody of pain and rage, and he lets out the most guilt-inducing cry of suffering his little body can muster. They warn you too: he may develop a fever, be prepared to give him Tylenol, watch him for the first few hours, just in case he, you know, dies or anything. So once you go through this you really look forward to doing it again two months later.
When it came time for our boy to have his second set, he had a cold and the doctors were worried that it might be the Great Flu, so they put off the injections for one week and then two as his cold just kept streaming. Every time we brought him back in they said nope, he’s not better yet, and we cursed ourselves for having gone through another risky yet unproductive visit to the flu-ridden hospital.
Finally last week they deemed him well enough, and two nurses prepared to hold down the two chubby little thighs while he smiled and gurgled at them so heart-breakingly naively. While they were preparing the syringes, and we were looking away, they told us he was too young to have the H1N1 vaccine – it hasn’t been tested on enough babies under six months old – but we, his parents, should get the shot, and that in fact we were considered to be in a high-risk group, as caregivers to a person unable to receive it. They said we can do it right now, here in the family clinic, roll up your sleeves. So after they jabbed poor little Hugo (he didn’t cry too much as he was distracted by all the nice ladies around him, that’s my boy), they jabbed me and his mom. I also enjoy taking off my shirt in front of ladies, so it was a bonding experience all round. The three of us trundled out covered in our little Band-Aids.
If you had not had the swine flu shot, you will not know that it is an intramuscular injection: it goes right into the meat of your arm and there commences to hurt. It hurts for about three days. Just a dull ache. You may also feel a bit sick – sore throat, headache, a bit of a runny nose – for a couple of days. Once that goes away you feel very pleased that you have fought it off; you can almost feel the brand new antibodies cruising around your system, looking for a fight. It’s like the relief you feel when you upgrade your computer security software.
The baby forgot about his violent experience with needles immediately, distracted as he now is by the all-consuming task of finding objects that will fit into his mouth. That’s something new we have to constantly watch. But it’s a whole lot less stressful than diphtheria.
Image courtesy of ndemi.