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Friday, June 7, 2013

Pinky and the Flu Vaccine

Influenza vaccine cannot give you a dose of influenza because it contains no active virus. Some people who get influenza vaccine may still get the flu but they will usually get a milder case than those who were not vaccinated. 

Despite the Australian Medical Association widely publicising this fact, many people refuse to have the flu vaccine because they think it will give them the flu.

Today at work, a selection of courageous warriors fighting the war against the spread of the dreaded lurgy, lined up outside the staffroom to be jabbed with the pointy end of a needle.

We all joked around merrily, full of false bravado whilst we waited for the nurse to call us up.

The scariest part was after we were inoculated and we had to sit in the room with the nurse in case we had an allergic reaction.

My hypochondria immediately set in; my heart began to race, the roof of my mouth itched and my lips twitched sporadically. Fairly certain I was about to have an horrific adverse reaction I leaned over to my friend Bec, 

“Does your arm feel weird and tingly?” I asked her urgently, “Does it feel … bloodless?”

“A bit,” she replied scanning my panic stricken face, “I think that’s normal though, Pinky.”

After what seemed an eternity the ten minutes passed and none of us bloated up and died so we were permitted to go and have a cup of tea. ‘Thank God!’ I thought. ‘Pinky, will live to see another day.’

Medical procedures always throw me into a barely restrained anxiety attack.

One day when I was about nineteen years old, and standing at the car rental counter at the airport where I worked, I noticed a tight feeling in my chest and my heart palpitating. 

Alarmed and thinking I was having a heart attack I began taking very large breaths because it felt like I wasn’t getting enough air. 

Very soon the gasping for air swiftly spiralled out of control and I was loudly hyperventilating like a pig in labour. Poor, frightened Helen, the girl I was working with, rang the office and asked them to come and pick me up urgently to drive me to the doctor.

By the time the terrified car washer, Colin, (who’d been randomly assigned the job of ambulance driver) arrived at the doctor, I had upset the carbon dioxide balance in my bloodstream so much, my legs were paralysed and completely numb. 

Colin was forced to unceremoniously carry me in to the crowded (and enthralled) reception area. I couldn't talk, my arms tingled and I’m pretty sure I was actually dribbling in fear of the imminent death that was surely coming my way.

As I languished, heavy breathing, Camille-like against the counter, Colin anxiously described my symptoms to the grumpy-looking nurse.

“She looks like she’s getting plenty of air to me!” she tartly replied. “Bring her out the back. She’s scaring the other patients.”

As I lay on the gurney wondering what horrible disease I had contracted, the nurse impatiently thrust a paper bag into my hands. “Breath into that,” she grumbled, and left me to die alone in the room.

“A paper bag?” I thought bitterly, “that b#tch is gonna get the sack when I cark it,” and promptly passed out.

“You had a panic attack,” explained my doctor about an hour later when she’d finally finished seeing the sick patients. “Have you been burning the candle at both ends lately?”

Read… The apples didn't fall far from the tree.

My mind flittered over the memories of the previous fortnight’s all-niters, wildly clubbing and partying whilst infused with alcohol and nicotine, then getting up after an hour’s sleep to go to work.

The trouble was the doctor didn’t explain what causes panic attacks and how to manage them.

Whilst I never succumbed to the melodramatic magnitude of that slice of theatre again, I continued to experience anxiety for years afterwards. Eventually I found a book that explained the mechanics of adrenalin and hyperventilation and I applied some self-help therapy to cure myself.

But every now and then I feel my heart begin to flutter and a sense of impending doom. 

Like when I have to have a vaccination.