When I was a kid, I was scared to death of doctors. Doctors meant uncomfortable examinations, poking and prodding in places reserved for private eyes only, disgusting tasting medicines…and SHOTS! Shots…the bane of my existence. Those needles were instruments of torture being jabbed into arms, legs, butts, one can only imagine what else…oh the horror! Barbaric rituals, I thought. I was just a little kid….I didn’t have a prayer in hell. None of us little kids did. I’d lose massive amounts of sleep on the days prior to a doctor appointment….freaked out with worry and trying to conjure up a credible excuse to present to my mother for not going. My attempts, as brilliantly thought out as they were, always fell on deaf ears. When all else failed, I believe my pattern was to whimper in the car all the way to the doctor’s office in one last attempt to break through to my mother….futile. Another lamb led to the slaughter.
I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. I had friends. And there were others. We were a club….a club of little people who banned together to condemn the injustice of it all. We talked. We shared stories and swapped possible excuses. I don’t remember one success story in the bunch. We were doomed, and we knew it.
Looking back, I believe my fear of needles and shots probably originated when I was very small. I’ve written before about my cinder-eating days as a tot when my mother used to put me in our backyard in my stroller to get a “little healthy sun.” Those outings usually ended up the same way every time. Me, with a black ring around my mouth from munching on cinders that covered a goodly portion of our meager backyard, instead of grass. Apparently my mother, the same lady who wouldn’t know a good excuse if she heard one, didn’t seem to be too worried about it, and kept returning me to the scene of the crime. Long story short: I wound up with a lovely bowel infection that required my getting penicillin shots in my butt for weeks; as the story goes. I was really too little to recall the whole ordeal, but I DO remember those shots and how they hurt…little or not. Yeah, I think I can pretty much point to this nightmare as the catalyst to my distaste of doctors and shots.
During my days in grammar school (today we call them elementary schools) it was common to get vaccinated for polio right in school. What a slap in the face… I felt like nowhere was safe. Now they were bringing the torture to us, at school. Lines and lines of us kids, all holding our little permission notes from home; panic in our faces, sweat on our brows, and fear in our hearts….JUST WAITING. I tried on more than one of those occasions to convince the nurse that my mother didn’t want me to have the shot. “My mom says, No Thank You.” Only to be betrayed by the lies in my mother’s note.
When I was about eight or nine I had this rusty old bike that I used to ride around the neighborhood on. It was a little too big for me, but it was the first bike I remember riding before I got my brand new, shiny blue Schwinn for my birthday. On this particular day, I parked my bike in front of my friend’s house, like so many times before. Only this time I apparently didn’t click the kickstand all the way down; and as I turned to walk, the bike fell on me. A piece of metal from the kickstand plate gouged a nickel-sized hole in the back of my left leg. I quickly glanced down, and that was enough. This was not going to be good. With tears running down my cheeks, and blood streaming down my leg, I rode home. The whole ride home all I could think about was, “Oh no, wait till Mom sees this. She’ll take me to the doctor for sure.” I think that was the reason for the tears more than anything.
Well, the Gods must have been looking down on me that day. When I got home my mother was out, but my brother and cousin were there. I immediately showed my brother, Ken. When I saw his reaction, it confirmed what I already knew…. I was in trouble. The begging began.
“Please, please, don’t tell Mom. You fix it Ken. Put some iodine on it and a band-aid. Please, please.”
Somehow that seemed like a reasonable request. And, miracle of miracles…that’s just what Ken did…albeit reluctantly. With nothing short of a blood oath from my cousin, Mike, not to tell, I felt relief.
I don’t know how I made it past inspection that first day, but by the second day my mom noticed the band-aid. With a lump in my throat and my heart beating out of my chest, I told her that I fell and hurt myself playing outside and Ken fixed it up. Amazingly, she took the bait. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that she questioned me again.
“Just how did you hurt yourself again? Let me take a look at it.”
What stopped my mom from passing out is beyond me. Maybe it was all the oxygen she was getting by screaming…I don’t know. I WAS DEAD….and on my way to the doctor’s office. My mother was fairly incoherent a good portion of the car ride…and at the doctor’s. To this day I consider it a blessing that I didn’t understand what was coming out of her mouth when the doctor told her I needed stitches, but that it was too late for that. I would have a scar. He cleaned it all up, did some fancy maneuvering with a bandage, and prescribed some kind of horse pills for me to take for the next couple of weeks to prevent infection. Oh, and yes….HE GAVE ME A SHOT IN MY ARM! The very thing I was trying to prevent in the first place by recruiting Dr. Ken.
I don’t know when it was that my mother calmed down. I tried to stay out of her way…. and ear range. One thing I know….she had no one to blame but herself. Remember the cinders, Mom?