I walked into the Adult Immunization Clinic hoping the nurse would tell me I was fine, I didn’t need any shots or pills, enjoy Africa – bon voyage! As I approached the sign-in counter, I noticed a large placard heralding the new “SINGLES VACCINE.” Holy crap. Now they’re trying to rid the world of singledom, along with smallpox, polio, and tb? I did a double take, curious what the rationale behind funding such a vaccine would be. Oh. Shingles vaccine. Don’t need that one either.
I waited patiently, listening to my new iPod, loving the shuffle function – every song is a surprise! Lisa, a café au lait skinned, salt and pepper dreadlocked nurse with the deepest brown eyes I’ve ever seen, called me back to her consultation station. We talked about where I was going, what I’d be doing, and how long I’d be gone before she made her recommendation: I needed my second dose of the hepatitis series I’d started before Cambodia and a prescription for anti-malaria prophylactics.
When I saw her tapping the needle I stammered, “I don’t like shots. I might cry, but it’s okay. I won’t pass out.” She smiled and grabbed my arm. I flinched. “I know, I know, I need to be still. I know.” My stomach was slowly rising in my throat. Why was the room spinning? She punctured my shoulder and I let out a whimper and collapsed. She withdrew the needle and pushed me to the floor with the words, “Lay on the floor.” My phobia of needles competed with my disdain of public floors. I looked into her deep brown eyes and murmured, “Seriously? You want me to lie on the floor? Right here?” She nodded and gently pushed me down. “Don’t think about how many people have walked here. Don’t think about how often they vacuum government offices. Don’t think about this is where people come to get vaccinated and immunized and droplets of live viruses are probably squirming all around you,” was what I thought. And for each “don’t” I told myself not to think about, I did.
Lisa had left, returning with cold wet paper towels and a sickingly sweet juice box that, at the moment she inserted the straw into my still-horizontal mouth, tasted like the nectar of the gods. Each time I said, “I’m okay,” she pushed me back down, urging me to rest. After several rounds of coming up, being pushed down, coming up, I stayed up. And rose (very slowly, but on my own).
I left the clinic, one shot closer to Africa.