It’s that time of year again. The foliage turns several shades of orange. The weather cools enough to wear a jacket. Back-to-school sales fill my inbox. And, flu shot signs line strip malls.
For as long as I can really remember, maybe 10 years, I’ve been getting the flu shot. The year before that I had the flu and I had it bad. It started off as a headache and then I was incapacitated, needing to rely on a roommate I couldn’t stand for soup and Theraflu. The only symptoms: chills and a fever registering over 103 for four days. I was almost paralyzed, only able to garner the energy to crawl to the can. I vowed to take all preventative measures possible, never to repeat that physical feeling.
The flu shot is a mystery. You never know when a nurse might stick you with a syringe and it’ll backfire. Instead of protecting you, you end up with a mild version of the flu. This happened to my husband and I before we had our daughter. One minute we were at a concert and the next we were laying on the bed feeling completely fatigued, barely able to lift the remote.
Then, there was the year H1N1 decided to show it’s ugly face, 2009. Or, as I like to call it, the retaliation of the swine. Red dots popped up on CDC maps and people worried they would become another one, a casualty of the flu magnified times two. I was one of those who feared I would turn into my favorite color and go all crimson. Or, worse yet, my tiny baby would turn into a beet.
We lived in the city at that time, I was still working and my daughter was dropped off daily at the petri dish…uh, I mean daycare. She was sick all of the time with things that would pass. I worried the swine flu would be the type of sickness that stayed put.
I searched the Internet for news of a vaccine. It was announced, but there would be a limited supply. So, I searched the Internet to find a place where I could get my hands on just one of that limited supply. I didn’t care about my husband or myself, but my baby needed to be protected.
There were two clinics, just outside the projects (the sketchier side of town), providing shots to children, pregnant women and people with pre-existing conditions. They would start giving out the shots at 3 pm and stop when they ran out. Figuring there would be a line, I got there two hours early. I made sure my daughter had a full belly and a fresh diaper. I packed up the stroller and we set out to wait in line for something that wasn’t a shoe in.
Of course, other parents decided to get there three hours early, instead of two, because the line was already two-blocks long, by the time I got there. People were coughing and sneezing in line. I thought, is this worth it? Babyface could get strolled away shot-less, tainted with some other kind of sickness.
That thought quickly disappeared, when the face of a pig invaded my photographic mind. We would wait and take our chance. Two hours passed and we were still in line. My husband joined us after work, at the three-hour mark. After four hours, we finally entered the clinic. They allowed my husband and I to get a shot, as well.
The moment the needle poked my shoulder, I closed my eyes. I imagined the clinic being surrounded by zombies and I was one of the few being injected with the vaccine. My husband, daughter and I would be survivors. We wouldn’t lose all emotion. We were untouchable to the bloodsuckers just outside that door.
I thought of the mass hysteria that would ensue, if this were really a zombie vaccine. We would be holed up at home watching maniacs clock and kill the medical staff, just to get their hands on a few drops of the vaccine. We would watch until someone broke the camera, the TV flipped to white noise and then the power flickered off.
Okay, so I’ve watched too many zombie movies, but I think that incident was a glimpse into what would happen if a vaccine truly meant life or death. If a vaccine could save our precious cargo, as a mother, would I weather any violence to protect my child or would we stay home and hope for the best? Keeping the frame of mind that as long as we’re together, it’s ok?
Luckily, this year, there is no shortage. No lines. No pushing. No shoving. No being sprayed by other’s sneezes, just to protect my spawn. Hopefully, this won’t be the year of the zombie. I’m too tired to decide what I would do.