Flu season is rapidly upon us. I woke up this morning with a slight case of the sniffles that as the day has gone on has proved to be (hopefully) somewhat of a false alarm. I am hoping to get through the week unaffected as next Saturday I hope to run* in my first half-marathon. I have already paid the registration fee as well as completed my last long run — a 10.5 mile trek a week ago. The race is 13.1 miles. After 10.5, I knew I could make 13.1 so I stopped to conserve my body and prevent overtraining, which can and has for me in the past led to a lowered immune system and consequently the flu, which wiped me out from participating last year, although I never went so far as to preregister as I have this year.
With flu season comes flu shots. Everyone Hospitals, medical offices, ambulance services, senior centers, and pharmacies are all giving them out. It is hard to avoid mention of them. There is a sign on our ambulance service’s bulletin board about where and when to go to get your flu shot. I get my flu shot every year. I will get the swine flu shot too. I believe in science. I believe in benefit versus risk analysis. Sure I might die from the shot in a rare occurrence, but I am much more likely to avoid the flu or get it much less severely than I otherwise would have had I not gotten the shot. I hate getting the flu. I haven’t died from it, but sometimes I feel like I will never be well again, and I hate that. Not for me.
I know quite a number of health care workers who are refusing to get flu shots and/or swine flu shots. I recall seeing some controversy on TV where the health care workers were rallying and holding up signs and an off-camera hospital spokesman was saying they didn’t have to get flu shots as required by the hospital, but the hospital also didn’t have to keep them employed. Something to that effect. One side is advancing the argument that health care workers need to get the shot so they won’t get sick from sick patients and then pass it along to other vulnerable patients who will get sicker. Makes sense to me.
The other side is advancing the we have a right to what goes in our bodies argument, which I generally believe in as a proponent of freedom and the American way. When these two clash, it does raise interesting issues. Let me just answer it this way. If I have a choice of going to two hospitals — one hospital where all the staff have gotten their shots and one where none of them have, I’ll go to the hospital where they have all gotten their shots.
The dear mother of my darling twenty-one-month-old also works in health care and she never gets the flu shot. She won’t let them come near here with that needle even though she herself gives the same shot to others countless times. We don’t even argue about it anymore. I’m not going to change her mind, she isn’t going to change mine.
I had a patient this morning with some mild difficulty breathing on exertion. I asked him when it started. “Right after I got my flu shot on Monday,” he said. Similar words to what a patient told me yesterday, and similar words to what I have seen written on quite a number of run forms I have read in my job as a clinical coordinator. “Patient states it all started when they got their flu shot….” Cause and effect. You get a shot, you get sick. It didn’t matter that this guy had a multiple pneumonia history, his blood sugar was 500 and he weighed 300 pounds and had four by-passes and for the last two years he has slept upright every night in a chair and his apartment smelled of cat urine. He’d be perfectly healthy if not for that flu shot. He even handed me the literature they gave him about the shot and all its possible side effects. I set it back on the table and asked again for his med list. You get a shot, you get sick. Cause and effect.
One of the patients on the run forms I read blamed his syncope on the flu shot. I saw his diagnosis — AAA — aortic abdominal aneurysm. If they are linked we are in more trouble than we thought. You get a shot, bad things may happen. It is the way people think. But the shots don’t guarantee you won’t have to call 911 in the ensuing week. If they came with that guarantee, we’d go door to door inoculating everyone. Then we could close up shop for a week and all of us go to the upcoming EMS Expo in Atlanta. No need to cover the town.
Anyway, I can get my shot as early as this Thursday. But I think I am going to wait until next week. I don’t want to risk getting sick and missing my race.