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Kirby: Shots keep you immune from more than disease

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Apr 29 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 29 2014 04:58 pm

I’m not afraid of needles. I could, would and have injected myself before. Apparently I lack whatever it is that makes a person afraid of sharp things, depending, of course, on how big they are.

I’ve also operated on myself in minor ways. While I drew the line at opening the cranium or the peritoneum, just about anything else went so long as I could stand the pain.

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Sounds crazy, I know, but you can save a surprising amount of money if you’re not afraid of an X-ACTO Knife and a little screaming — at least until your wife and some doctors find out about it.

But inoculations? Please. Maybe it’s the circumstances of my birth. I was born into the military. I started getting vaccinated about five minutes after I was born. After that it was a regular occurrence.

My mother— and it was always her — would say something like, "Your father has orders for Sackahammers Air Force Base. Say goodbye to everyone you know and let’s go see the doctor."

We knew what was coming. In the back seat my siblings and I screamed like cats in a trash compactor while Mom drove us to the post or base dispensary. It was time for the dreaded "shots."

At the dispensary, a doctor every bit as sympathetic as an Aztec priest would hold us down and stab us in our frightened parts. Our heads would bulge from the amount of serum forced into us.

Later, leaking tears and snot, we got ice cream to calm us down. Half a century later I still associate soft-serve ice cream with traveling to a new home on a sore ass.

If it wasn’t the military inoculating me, it was public school. Once a year we all filed down to the gymnasium and waited in line to see the school nurse.

This was always ominous because we didn’t know what was coming. Up ahead was a commotion but it was hard to tell what was happening. Eye exam? School pictures? Random neutering?

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We waited for the whispers to come back down the line: "It’s a sugar cube this time."

Some kids wailed anyway.

Later, it was off to the Army myself where inoculations were given with pneumatic guns. Five-hundred other guys and me plodded cattle-like through a firing squad of medics.

Crack, crack, crack, THUMP (as someone fainted) crack, crack…

Waiting for my turn I pondered the irony of the Army giving me shots so I’d be healthy enough to send someplace to get shot for real. It was an irony I wisely kept to myself.

The worst injections were the ones during my LDS mission. In one place the district leader was a premed student. Rather than wasting time traveling into the mission home to see the nurse, Elder Christensen gave us our booster shots.

I didn’t mind the entire district seeing my butt (including the sister missionary who helped him), but Elder C was really enthusiastic. Also, the needle was old and the same gauge as a fountain pen.

Through all of that I never really paid attention to what I was being vaccinated against. Measles, smallpox, rubella, stuttering, gonorrhea, influenza, independent thought — it could have been anything. I didn’t have any say in the matter.

Because I’m not dead or otherwise incapacitated, they must have worked. Someone else knowing what’s best actually happens a lot to me.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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