Monday, November 16, 2009

Blogpost - Vaccine Reaction turns ugly

After breakfast I went to get my flu vaccine. All of the staff were
strongly encouraged to get a shot. Even though I wasn’t actually staff I was told to get one. Although I’m not particularly worried about H1N1 I didn’t see any reason to turn down a free dose of preventative medicine. Considering the reaction I had I probably should have turned it down. Certainly I'll never take a flu shot again. Of course, I’d never had a flu shot before so I didn’t have any way to know I was going to react like that.

Even before they sent for the ambulance to take me to the hospital I had a pretty good idea it was a very severe reaction. Although I was expending too much energy on staying conscious to worry about worrying there were far too many people who kept telling me "don't worry, it's a very minor reaction." I did not get a skin reaction. I did not have a swollen throat. I did not get a headache. I did get very dizzy. I found it very difficult to form complete sentences in Chinese. (I wasn’t given the opportunity to form complete sentences in English so I don’t know whether or not those were also difficult.) I was very lethargic. I felt like I had no energy. I sweat a lot.

When they stood me up to take me over to a shadier part of the hotel restaurant my feet and lower legs went all pins and needles numb but sensation had already completely returned to the good leg and mostly returned to the bad leg by the time I managed to tell them this. One of my motorcycle club friends tried to convince me that I was okay. I rough house with them a lot and an outsider who doesn't know
my relation to them might think they don't like me. He yanked violently at my arms trying to get me stand up. He told me to stop goofing off. Even told me that he'd let me ride on his motorcycle if I got up now. He pushed, pulled, cajoled, even slapped me. Among all the professionally calm people working very hard not to let me see that they were worried his panic was strangely reassuring. Even when they made him leave the room it was comforting.

I wasn’t told what my blood pressure was. They took four times before they put me on the ambulance so, despite them telling me it was perfectly normal, I really doubt it was normal. You don't keep taking blood pressure again and again when it's normal. I wasn’t told what my heart rate was. I couldn’t have read the results of the EKG even if they’d let me see them. The constant chorus of "perfectly normal" and "minor reaction" combined with the clearly "this is not perfectly normal" behavior on the part of the medicos nagged at me some but there wasn't any benefit in worrying. I was already surrounded by medical people. Either things were going to be okay or they weren't but there really wasn't anything I could do to effect the outcome.

I don't know what they put in my drip at the hospital. I fell asleep for about two hours and was released to take a bus back to the hotel.

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