On the subject of memory again, I am afraid of needles. Needles of all kinds, but shots and blood-drawing in particular. Apparently, I was fine with shots until about the age of six. But while it’s tempting to attribute to my mother’s passing (doctors! trauma! death!), here I think it is not the case at all. It is perhaps my first, most vivid memory.
The trip to the doctor, in our Plymouth station wagon, started out with Jon asking if I was going to get a shot this visit. Speculation, trepidation, and discussion about shots loomed large in my household. Jon, two years older than me, used to get massive doses of allergy shots. Jeff, five years senior, was largely out of the vaccination woods. For me, it was the tetanus booster.
Jeff: Oooh, the tetanus shot. That’s the worst one!
Jon: You’re gonna cry.
Me: Come on, it isn’t that bad, is it?
Jeff: Sometimes they use a shot that is so big that it goes all the way through your arm.
Jon: You’re gonna cry.
Immunizations and vaccinations have become a thing nowadays. For the tetanus vaccine, side effects include headaches, body aches, tiredness. Oh, and “crying for three hours or more (up to about one child out of 1,000).” Yeah. Crying.
In the doctor’s office, I freaked out. I started crying and squirming some before the doctor unwrapped the needle, so they called in my dad to help calm me down. I kept wiggling and began bawling loudly , so they called in a couple of other nurses to hold me down. Then the screaming. In the end it took the doctor, my father, and 5 nurses to hold me down while they gave me the obviously largest, most painful shot in the whole world.
I have been unreasonably afraid of needles ever since. I didn’t get blood drawn via a needle until college, preferring instead to have someone draw it by pricking my fingertip. The lure of sex and the fear of HIV pushed me into regular screenings. I’ve never given blood, though I know that it could save lives.
This is also one of my earliest, most vivid memories. I can hazily recall the house I grew up in, we used to have cats, but I don’t remember much about them. Faces, events, things all swim around in a soup of affect and snapshot. But the trip to to the doctor for my tetanus shot, that I remember.