The Needle and the Damage Done

I know Neil Young wasn’t referring to vaccinations when he wrote this song, but it seems like a pretty fitting title in this case.

I began my first round of shots last weekend (yes, first round…more to come…super excited for those). I showed up to the travel clinic on Saturday morning, thinking that if I got them early, I could wait out any weirdness they might cause and still go about my weekend. It turns out that I underestimated both the number of shots I would need and the impact they would have.

The process was pretty interesting. I first got to go through a bit of an interview, which was really just me and a very nice girl named Amra chatting about the trip: where I am going, what kinds of things I am going to do, how long I will be in each place, and how mind-blowing it is all going to be. It turns out that she has done a fair bit of travel herself and had some great tips for me. The happy chat took a pretty hard turn when she dropped a stack of maps in front of me that all said MALARIA on the top. Being a pretty big lover of maps, I was ok with that part. At least, I was ok until we had to start sorting out which areas have resistance to specific meds, how long I will be in those areas and how many pills this was all going to include. 209. Two Hundred and Nine! For 209 days in 2011, I will be popping anti-malaria meds.  The next step was to figure out which pills I would be taking: the ones with nightmares and vivid daydreams, the one with a daily price tag of $5 but no side effects, or the one requiring accompanying probiotics. I have a feeling that I won’t need any help with the nightmares after crawling around the Vietcong tunnels or visiting the Pol-Pot killing fields, so that one got scratched immediately. If I had the budget for an extra $5 each day, I would likely not choose to spend it on mozzie pills. But seeing as I don’t have that budget anyway, that choice was easy. They are off the list. That left me with 1 prescription for 209 Doxycycline.

Next up, the shots. Having no official record of any of the shots I have gotten in the past seems like it would have been a problem, but Amra knew everything! Based on the year I was born, the province I grew up in and the immigration process I had gone through she could tell what I had been giving and what I hadn’t. Then she started writing out the list of what I would still need, and adding to it, more and more. Yikes! Once the list was done, she walked me across the hall to the nurse, handed her the list and smiled a sympathetic smile at me. This is when I really started getting nervous. I can jump out of an airplane any day, but you put a needle in front of me and I turn into a ball of nerves. I sat down in a rolling chair so the nurse could get to both of my arms, closed my eyes and took a bunch of deep breaths. I would love to say it wasn’t that bad, and truthfully, the first 2 shots weren’t…the rest sucked bad. The nurse was really understanding and told me some pretty funny stories about other people, which made it a little better. Then she gave me a lollipop. 🙂

Saturday night was a little rough. My right arm was totally useless and my left arm was only mildly better. I wasn’t very good company that night either. After sleeping for ages, I woke up with some improved mobility which was a happy surprise. Now I get to go back this weekend for round two, and then the week after Christmas for the third and final round. Then I get to start popping Typhoid and Cholera pills. Good times!

When I left the travel clinic, they were sure to tell me that the shots don’t make me immune, they just improve my chances of survival with limited sicknesses. And here I thought I was going through all of this in order to get my magic shield!


About Kerri

I am becoming a gypsy for the next year. Going to wander the world to learn as much as I can before my bank account runs dry.
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3 Responses to The Needle and the Damage Done

  1. Katie says:

    At least you got a lollipop . . .

  2. Amy says:

    do you feel a bit like a pin cushion! lol! goodluck this weekend, no worries!

  3. Tim Craig says:

    Yikes! We usually get a few shots and some pills – but this sounds nuts!
    Be sure to remember all the pills and shots if you ever feel like stopping the trip early – it just wouldn’t be worth it! Got to get all the mileage out of those shots as you can!!

    Glad it wasn’t worse – sounds like quite the experience. Did you need any Hep shots? We need to remember to go back for our six-month 2nd shot. Fun stuff.

    Thanks for sharing your pointed experience…

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