Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Immunizations Down

The Texas Department of Health announced that immunizations were down this year. They seemed somewhat surprised. I can only imagine that they have forgotten what it feels like to be six years old and have a needle intentionaly stuck into your arm. The best argument ever divised against Libratarianism is immunization. If the government did not demand that all children be vccinated before attending school, polio, diptheria,whooping cough, measles, and all manner of dangerous and disfiguring diseaes would still run rampany through the country.It would sort of be like disbanding the IRS and still telling people that they needed them to pay taxes to run the government. Good luck with that.

The reason that no one would get immunized unless forced to by an evil axis of government, parents and drug companies, is that it hurts like hell. I know for a fact that it does not hurt as much as it used to, but it still hurts. My childhood, the 1950s and 60s was the hey day of the immunization movement. Now those of you unfamilair with the history of American Public Health may not know this, but it is true. Shots in those days really did hurt a lot more than they do now. I have checked the internet, and can't find any empirical proof for this, but I swear to you that it's true. The needles were longer, more jagged (I think that because of the sheer numbers of baby boomers, they had to reuse needles a dozen times) and the injection administrators much more callous and or/incompetent. "Roll up your sleeve you sniveling little bastard" was how my brother and I were often spoken to at Dr Bloxom's office. As we would try to twist away they would hang on to the arm and plunge in the needle, pretty much wherever they could get it in.

Because of the extreme pain, which often amounted to child abuse, it was not easy for my parents to "pursuade us" to get our yearly shots. Their strategy changed from year to year. Sometimes it was a head on "get in the car, you are getting your shots". My father was mostly involved in that strategy because if they had two adults, they were guaranteed to be able to drag us both to the car, and in the case of my brother, I mean dragged. I saw Clay physically dragged by the legs and thrown into the back of a 1956 black and white Chevrolet station wagon and "taken for a ride".I see him now, face presed against the window wailing away as my mother did her best to remove clumps of dirt and grass from his pants and from under his finger nails.
By this time in life, I had developed a more adult like resignation to the whole procedure. I was lead away, sobbing quietly to myself.

The other, more invidious strategy was my mother's alone. If she had no other adult support, she would resort to stealth. "Boys, I have to go to the store, come with me ?" That's how it started.Then we'd drive past the A&P and stare at each other uncomprehendingly. "Oh, not the grocery store" my mother would say. As we proceeded down Bissonet, we began to see landmarks that made us nervous.Certain apartment buldings, some pink cement decorations at the entry to a neighborhood This route seemed familair. Wait a minute.....My mother's trickery had managed to help her avoid the initial car loading specatcle, but as we forced her to fess up. "Well, yes, we are going to run by the doctor's office." , "yes, I guess it's possible that you will get a shot." The howling started.In the pre seatbelt days, my brother and I eschewed the back seat in order to ride in what is now, I suppose, the luggage area of the station wagon (if they still make station wagons). When we realized what was up, I always thought that we looked like a couple of howling dogs being hauled off to the pound, which is just what we felt like. The betrayal !! By our own mother.

Dr Bloxom's office was a two story red brick house across from Sears on South Main. If the Russians ever bombed Houston, I prayed that it would be ground zero. Bloxom was an tiny bald fellow of indeterminate old age. My mother held him in higher esteem than any other person, living or dead, on the planet earth.He was her Jesus, her Buddah, her Mohammed, all rolled together.He could walk on water and bend steel with his bare hands.What he said was gospel and his orders were never varied by her in any respect. But the shots did not call for Bloxom.He had henchpersons to do his bidding on that.Two normally polite nurses, one blonde, one brunette, who once a year dropped their pediatrician office smile and took on the look of Dr Mengler. They would drag, yes really drag, screaming children through a waiting room and down a hall where a steaming covered hot plate of some kind awaited. They would open the cover and steam would pour forth into your face as they removed the sterilized insturments of torture. The fact that the needle was sterile did not make it feel any better. You had the sensation that it would burn hot, and sear into your flesh as the viscous and incredibly slow moving and painful serum entered your veins. No shot of my childhood ever lasted under five minutes. The needle was always in my arm for that long, often moved around a little to hit different bones.Even the withdrawing of the needle was painfil. It made a sound like a knife being pulled out of your gut.

As your crying tappered off, you then had to witness the horror of your brother undergoing the same torture. Although, I will say that this was surprisingly easy to watch once you were out of danger. And what did you get for this ? money ? a Purple Heart ? No, Dr Bloxom would swing by and offer you a single stick of Dentyne. A sugarless gum that burned your tounge.It was like the torture never stopped. On the way home, our mother was so worn out and distraught and probably felt so guilty over what she had just participated in, that she would often stop and let us buy a toy.This was a nice diversion from your arm throbbing like it was going to fall off for the next three days.

About 1963, child welfare organizations pressured the public health agenies to hence forth administer the polio vaccine orally, by sugar cube of all things ! Slowly after that, injections became more humane. I noticed as I got older and older that they hurt less and less. I attribute all of this to advances in technology and better training of those incharged with the injections.
No child suffers today like the baby boomer did during my childhood. Frankly, no dog suffers today from its shots like the baby boomers suffered during that black period. The PETA people wold not put up with it. Even so, I can't say that I'm surprised that immunizations are down. There is just something about that needle.......


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