When I was little, sickness scared me quite a bit. Once, on the news, I heard talk about a “serial killer”, so I ran to tell my mom, while she was in the shower, that we could  no longer buy or eat cereal. She claims that even after she had explained the difference to me, I didn’t eat cereal for a long, long time.

However, far far worse, than any sickness, were the shots. Yes, they may have kept me healthy, but honestly, I would have rather just gotten sick, because one shot in the beginning means a lifetime full of booster shots. Or in other words, a lifetime full of fear. However, if I just got sick, it would have been a one-time deal kind of thing, right? Unless it was something really deadly…. Then, I decided to myself, if it were a deadly disease, I would get the shot…but only if I were exposed.  For example, the tetanus shot. Not necessary unless I stepped on a rusty nail or something. Capuche? So, the declaration, in my mind, was made pretty clearly. NO SHOTS. Apparently my dear mother missed the memo.

It seemed like every time I went to the doctor I was due for some kind of shot. They always called me into the doctor’s office and took my blood pressure, and they always asked me if I was nervous (because it was always high). The truth is, I learned at a young age how to read the charts that tell you exactly when you are due for the next shot. I memorized the dates (they were printed on all the Kaiser appointment notices). I  knew exactly which shots were due and which shots I found to be necessary, and which ones I found to be not necessary but, for some reason, my opinion did not matter as much as I thought it should. So, yes of course I was nervous. All the demon nurses and doctors seemed to want to stab me with a needle every chance they got.  I did not voice this, but just nodded my head, and tried not to cry.  Somehow, the doctor seemed to have missed my NO SHOTS memo too. Every time I sat in that chair, I hoped from the bottom of my heart that the doctor would forget, and notkindly” suggest to my mother that I go get my shots up to date. Well, after several traumatic experiences, I decided that when I grow up, I will make shots that don’t hurt little girls.

My…..negative…feelings towards shots continued for a very long time. In fact, in high school, when I went to the doctor for my yearly check up, they told me once again, I need to go and get a chicken pox shot. Obviously, I felt this shot was not a necessary one. I would rather just get the chicken pox, and then never have to deal with this situation again. However, my mom did not feel the same way, and walked me to that dreaded office where I would get yet another stab in the arm.

First, she tried to be all nice about it, telling me I can get ice cream after or something. But, no. I would not have any of that. What she was doing to me was PURE EVIL, and you just can’t sweeten that up with ice cream. I mean, if she had just let me get the chicken pox when I was a kid, we would not be in this predicament.  How dare she want me to get a shot for something that was not really, really, really deadly? And then, my mother had the nerve to act like I was the one being unreasonable. Well, she never had to get a chicken pox booster shot, so she has no idea what she was talking about. If staying healthy means I have to get shots…pshhh, forget that. I’d rather be sick (assuming it’s nothing deadly). Well, despite the fact that I made it clear that serious harm was being forced upon me via a needle in my arm, no thanks to my mom, they still called me into the office and I had to sit in that chair like a big girl and get a shot. Abby, you are lucky my mom said, you only have to get one this time. Yeah, one shot of hell! I didn’t let my mom hear the end of it for weeks, despite the fact that she bought me ice cream after.

When it came time to pick a college major, my mom reminded me of my promise to make shots that did not hurt little girls, so I chose microbiology. Somewhere, in my obsession in finding which shots were necessary, and which weren’t, I also became fascinated with disease, viruses in particular. Unfortunately, my school does not offer a virology course.  However, while New Zealand I did have the opportunity to take a virology class. While there, I took a course called “genetics and microbiology of microbes”, and in that course, we got to do a whole month on viruses. I learned a lot about vaccines and why they are good. Well, I may have been wrong about that chicken pox shot.

As it turns out, the chicken pox virus is in the same family as the herpes virus. I don’t know how much you know about the herpes virus, but the best example of how it works would be cold sores. Someone that has had a cold sore before has, and will always have, the type I herpes virus in their system. This means that when the cold sore goes away they still have the virus, it’s just dormant. At times of high stress etc, the virus reemerges and boom,  another cold sore. Well chicken pox works the same. You get it once, but the virus never goes away. So, when you get older, and your immune system isn’t able to keep it in check any more, and it emerges as shingles. However, people that have never had chicken pox, do not have this virus in their system and therefore, will probably never get shingles.

After learning all this about chicken pox and shingles, I walked out of class admitting that I may have been a little bit unreasonable when it came to the fact that I had made myself out to be an innocent little girl, whose mother would not protect her, that is constantly under the attack of “life-saving” needles. I called my mom and apologized. You see, vaccines are never 100% effective. However, many are close, and if I keep up with the booster shots…I should be ok. So, now I know. Always listen to your mother. She knows what’s good for you!

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