Yesterday morning I took Jake to the dentist office bright and early; and as we were getting out of the car, I noticed a nurse letting herself into the Health Clinic right next door.
"So, um, when can kids get the swine flu vaccination?" I asked. "He's 13 and has asthma..."
"Today." She unlocked the door and motioned for me to come inside. "Follow me, I'll give you the information."
I had been on the fence about having Jake get vaccinated for awhile. Sometimes, I think, in the world of media and the Internets, we're flooded with almost too much information. There's people arguing a case against vaccinations, some arguing for, and we parents are left to sift through it all and try to figure out what to do.
For me it took one story. One. A 13 year old boy who seemed to have caught a cold on a Friday-the VERY Friday that Jake became sick with some congestion as well. By Monday, the 13 year old boy was dead. My son was back to his usual self, complaining that he had to go to school and scarfing down half the contents of my fridge.
I took one look at Evan's Frustaglio's picture, heard his Dad's heartbroken voice about how quickly his son passed away, and that did it.
Luckily, both Hubs and Jake qualified for the first doses of vaccine that was rolled out in our community, so yesterday we trekked off and stood in line with what seemed like a hundred people. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. Whatever, it was a LOT. It was a bit surreal, really. You could almost feel the worry in the room. If someone coughed, a path practically cleared for them, like the Red Sea parting for Moses.
"What about you?" Jake suddenly turned and looked at me with worry in his eyes. I work in a school, which is pretty much ground zero for the spread of viruses. The nurse looked at me and furrowed her brow.
"I don't qualify as high risk, Jake."
"But..." he looked at the nurse, back at me, then back at the nurse. "What if you..."
The question hung in the air, but I knew what he was asking.
What if YOU get it? What if YOU die? What if?
"I'll be fine," I answered breezily. "I wash my hands, I don't go near the kids who are sneezing. Really Jake, I'll be okay. I'm healthy and strong. I can get the vaccine in a couple of weeks."
I'm not sure if he believes me.
The panic is rising, bit by bit. I can hear it in people's voices. Every time I turn on the news, headlines scream about more deaths. Debates over whether or not to get the vaccine rage on Twitter, and perfect strangers have stopped me in the store to congratulate me on sneezing 'properly' (into my elbow, as health officials have suggested). I see people using sanitizing wipes on shopping carts before they touch them, and it seems like hand sanitizers are everywhere.
Panic is rising around me, and I'm fighting to keep it at bay. Somehow it's easier at home, where I have control over the cleaning and can sanitize everything in sight. Cleaning gives me a purpose. A job. I've shut off the news and stopped reading Twitter for awhile, because I just can't stand hearing about it anymore.
Things are okay, I keep telling myself over and over as I'm scrubbing the counters for the zillionth time. The two most important people in my life are vaccinated and will be safe.
Now if I could just quit feeling like I'm walking around with a giant bulls-eye on my back....