The Shot Clinic
The summer I was eight years old my family moved from North Carolina to the Japanese island of Okinawa where my Army dad was stationed. We would live there for three years. But before we could make the trip across the Pacific Ocean, we had to get a lot of immunizations, many of them for diseases not common in the U.S.
My mother had to take me, my sister and my brother to what we called the shot clinic at Fort Bragg, NC. It was located in a Quonset hut – a rounded metal structure meant for temporary use. It was like Grand Central Station with a zillion other mothers bringing their children in to be poked as well. It was so busy, in fact, that families filed in one end of the long, narrow building and made their way, single-file, through a gauntlet of shot-givers, if you will. Men and women with NEEDLES! We were required to move forward step by step, getting our shots in one arm, then the other, and back and forth until we reached the other end of the building where we would exit. Mom promised us ice cream cones afterwards, like she had always done, beginning when we were very little and living in Japan.
But when the door opened on that long Quonset hut and I saw the families in front of us moving through the line, kids crying, moms comforting, I knew I’d arrived in hell. My version of hell, anyway, being afraid of needles from a very young age. We moved forward bit by bit as the line moved, inching closer and closer to the first immunization station, my body quaking with fear. When it came my turn and the nurse started to swab my shoulder with alcohol, my tears turned to sobs and I made a run for it, dashing out the door to hide in the bushes.
Crouching down behind the foliage, crocodile tears streamed down my cheeks, my shoulders shuddering. But my intrepid mother found me moments later and took me by the hand, telling me I had to be brave, that I certainly didn’t want to die of cholera or some other horrible disease. I tried to convince her that I didn’t mind dying of cholera, that it was much better than having to have five shots in one day, only to return to the shot clinic two weeks later for five more shots.
As you might’ve already guessed – I did get my vaccinations and immunizations that day. My muscles tensed, so the needles hurt more, but my mom was right. It was better than dying of cholera or some other disease.
And now, I’m taking my mom’s advice once again. Hunkering down in my home, avoiding going out to be exposed to Covid-19. The prevention isn’t fun, but the alternative is far worse. One thing’s for sure – I’m definitely going to treat myself to ice cream. And I don’t think I’ll be waiting until this is all over.
The picture above (me on the right) is how I looked that summer, standing in our back yard with my best friend.