Friday, January 22, 2021

Taking a Shot Like a Man

Dr. Harry would be proud of me.

I didn’t cry, even whimper or cringe, before, during or after the doctor plunged the needle into my left arm Friday morning. I took the first Pfizer coronavirus vaccine like a man.

I wasn’t always that mature. Indeed, I still get the willies, what I usually call the heebie jeebies, whenever I see shots being given, a regrettably common piece of  newscast footage during these pandemic times. During my childhood in the 1950s, receiving an injection from our family physician, Dr. Harry, was ear shattering trauma.

My plight was side-splitting fun to my older siblings. Even if they too had to endure an injection, they gloried in my anticipated, prolonged agony.

I would start moaning the moment Dr. Harry entered our home (general practitioners made house calls in those days). As Dr. Harry—whose real first name was Bernard which he didn’t like as much as Harry—was a family friend, he would be in no rush to puncture me.

Tall, with a looping gait, bulging eyes and a shock of receding, not necessarily combed, wiry grey hair, Dr. Harry would slowly make his way down the carpeted hallway to the bedroom I shared with my brother.

An examination—my last hope for a shot reprieve—preceded what inevitably resulted in Dr. Harry diagnosing an illness best treated by a shot in the tush. Before my fate was sealed, the examination was a source of giggles. He’d poke me where I was ticklish, always asking when was the last time I had a bowel movement. It was decades before I knew the significance of that question.

The laughter ended when I would realize my symptoms called for a shot. Dr. Harry would vanish from the bedroom into either the kitchen or bathroom to wash his hands and prepare the needle. By this time I’d be screaming. 

My mother would be holding me down, trying to soothe me, making sure my bare buttocks faced upward. Dr. Harry would slip into the room, say a few nonsensical remarks and quickly, surprisingly, thrust the needle into my behind. I’d scream some more. Cry a little louder. Hug my mother a little tighter. Dr. Harry would retreat to the dinette where he and my mother would gossip awhile over coffee. 

With Gilda sitting beside me waiting her turn, Friday’s COVID-19 vaccination episode had no such drama, though I did tell the physician administering the injection of my childhood experiences, not to provide patient history but rather to allay any histrionics on my part. 

The toughest part of the experience was securing appointments for the inoculations. To no avail Gilda had tried and tried to pierce the online application process. Our inability to get appointments while almost a dozen friends secured time slots depressed us. 

To the rescue came Bella. Within half a day of trying she nailed two appointments at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The staff was cordial and efficient. We left within 45 minutes of arrival with appointments three weeks hence for our second vaccination.

If Dr. Harry were alive today I would tell him I am looking forward to my next shot.