Maybe it’s time to be hanging out shingles

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2017

As the saying goes, I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I drummed my fingers and bounced my knees. I took deep breaths and dropped my shoulders with each sigh. I was a big girl and big girls don’t get nervous at the thought of “getting” a shot.

When I was a little girl, I would run like a scared rabbit at the mere mention of having to  “get” a shot. Back then, our mamas said we were going to get “vaccinations” but we knew that was just a fancy word for shots. Shots hurt and little children got them for everything — things like the big measles and the little measles, for chicken pox and small pox, mumps and whooping cough and polio. Dr. Killingsworth gave us those shots at the doctor’s office. But we got our “DDT” shots at school. 

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Dr. Abbernathy would come to the school and give us those shots. “DDT” was what my grandpa put on his crops to keep the bugs off so that’s why we had to take it – to keep the bugs off us. We would line up and Miss Pete would come by and swab iodine on our arms with a cotton ball and Dr. Abernathy would come right behind her shooting us. Shots hurt and we would cry and want to go home.

I was not about to cry in front of the pharmacist who was going to give me the shingles shot. But if she didn’t come for me in five minutes, no three minutes, I was going home and she could give my shot to somebody else.

Getting the shingles shot was not my idea. My friend Weezer got the idea two years ago and I just went along with her, confident that getting the shingles shot was just a passing fancy.

Every now and then, Weezer would see that shingles commercial on television and get the shots on her mind again. We wouldn’t have to go to a doctor’s office, she would say. We could go to almost any pharmacy to get the shots. We wouldn’t need an appointment and our insurance would pay for it.

In a few days, she would forget about it and I wasn’t about to remind her. I didn’t want the shot and, anyway, I would not be comfortable getting vaccinated at the drug store.

Then, low and behold, a member of Weezer’s family got the shingles and that sent her into a tizzy. Every day, for five weeks she called to tell me how awful the shingles are. She was an eyewitness to the red whelps and the blisters it caused and to how the shingles spread. Why, she said some people even get the shingles in their mouths and ears and eyes. She could only imagine the pain — the severe pain — shingles cause. And, having the shingles once does not keep you from having them a second time. And, that was the direction we were taking by not getting the shingles shot.

And, she would add that it was going to be my fault if she got the shingles.

Weezer was relentless. Why she didn’t go get the shots and leave me out of it, I don’t know. But, misery loves company. And I was mighty miserable sitting at the pharmacy waiting for my shingles shot. Weezer was as happy as a jaybird. She was finally going to get a shingles shot.

If the pharmacist had not appeared at the 2 minute 47 second mark of my countdown, I would not have a story to tell. But she stepped around the corner and announced, “I’m ready for you.” I was not ready for her.

I got to choose which arm she was going to hurt. I chose my least dominant arm. I wanted to be able to eat.

“This is going to sting,” she warned.  “It might turn red and be a little sore.” It did and it was … for three miserable days.

When my daughter learned that I had gotten a shingles shot, she said, “Ooooh, Mama,”

in the same foreboding “Laaawrd , Laaaawrd ” tone my granny used when somebody was knocking at death’s door.

My daughter, “Doomsday,” read to me from the brain she carries around in her pocket. “The side effects of shingles shots include  … high fever and chills, shortness of breath, blurred vision, loss of hearing, dryness of the mouth and swelling of the feet and legs.”

Already, I was hot and sweating. My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow. I couldn’t take a deep breath.

“There’s more,” she said and continued to read as my feet and legs began to swell — as best I could see. “Pain in the shoulders and neck.” I could feel that. “Coughing, choking.” I gagged.   “Tingling of the lips.”  That, too. “Gullibility and hypochondria….” 


“Got cha!”

I did not see the humor in that – my vision was blurred.