Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“Out, Damn’d Shot! Out, I Say!”

So I’m channeling Lady Macbeth here a bit. But notice that the title of this post says “shot” and not “spot.” You can probably tell where I’m going with this.

With the change in weather, I have been feeling pretty awful, like I’ve been put through the ringer, always under the weather – joint and muscle pain, headache, nausea, sensitivity to smell, sensitivity to fluorescent lights – I’ve got the perfect mix of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis going on right now. So I decided that before I “really” get sick, I should get my flu shot, which I did yesterday.

But I’ve been avoiding it, for obvious reasons.

It was this time a bit over a year ago that I got my pneumovax, and ended up in the hospital for four days with a cellulitis infection. Don’t recall? Read Adventures In The ER And The MPU.

Not that it means anything, but I did provide information to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System about the incident. I didn’t hear anything, but a year later they sent me a form, asking if the patient had recovered or not. I did fill out the form, explaining that I had a reoccurrence of the original cellulitis infection, and that I suffered emotional trauma as a result of the experience.

Don’t believe me? I’ve been avoiding getting the flu shot like the plague. I have never been a fan of shots and needles, but after the events of the last few years, I’ve endured more needles than I ever thought I would see in my entire life.

But the thought of putting myself in the position of getting a life-threatening infection – while I’m trying to do something to protect my health – doesn’t really inspire me to go ahead with it. The whole pneumovax debacle may have been a fluky thing, but when something like that happens to you, it doesn’t matter what the odds are, it just sucks – and really tests your faith in the entire medical establishment.

I have a made a promise to myself never to have a shot administered at the student health center again – maybe this is irrational, but that’s the way it’s going to be. But can I really trust someone who works in occupational health? Have they versed themselves in the packaging material that comes with the vaccine before they give them or only after someone has a problem?

I also decided that I would get the shot early in the week, and not at the end of the week, like the pneumovax last year. That made it more difficult to do anything about it.

Now I really don’t want to get into a discussion here about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations in general. There are plenty of people who view all shots as bad and refuse to get any at all. That is your prerogative. It is mine, as I have done on a yearly basis since my freshman year of college (that was almost eight years ago already (and before I was chronically ill) – yikes!) – and especially since I became chronically ill – to make sure that I don’t die from the stupid flu. So please, no comments about how I’d be safer drinking Drano than getting a shot in the arm, or the like – unless you have personal experience that qualifies you to have such an opinion.

And speaking of safety, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Methotrexate recall already. This definitely begs the safety question. My feeling about this, although I take the pill form of Methotrexate and not the injectable kind, is that I am safer taking this medication and the others in my regimen, than I am going untreated. That at least gives me some peace of mind. (And I’m saying that about the drug in general, not that I’d be safer taking a drug that is tainted with flakes of glass).

So I guess that’s my philosophy when it comes to the flu shot, too. I would rather know that I’ve done as much as I can do – which isn’t very much – to protect myself from getting sick than not and have to worry all the time.

Plus, because I volunteer at the hospital, everyone who is not vaccinated by December 1st has to wear a mask. And you all know how much I love doing that… So it’s not only in my best interest, but in the interest of the patients I come into contact with at the hospital.

I do realize, that, based on how little is understood about many immune-system related ailments, especially those that “flare,” that there is some question about whether to get vaccinated while flaring, or if vaccinations can cause flare symptoms. Whether or not you decide to immunize yourself is a personal choice, albeit not necessarily an easy one for those of us who are chronically ill.

Can I sleep a little easier knowing I got my flu shot? Not necessarily. But can I breathe a little easier and not cringe every time I am on the bus and someone hacks up a lung. Definitely. Doesn’t mean I won’t get sick. Winter is going to be a long road, just based on how I feel already. But it means that, in some small way, I did what I could to be a dutiful patient and protect myself, even just a little bit, from all of the disease-carrying vectors around me.

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya. I have had the worst RA flare in ages in the past two weeks and it's only just November. I'm not excited to see how the negative Wisconsin temps will affect everything.

    I'm glad you got your flu shot. I got mine for the first time this year, and I'm so glad that I did.

    I hope you feel better soon.