Post 2: The flu shot

So I will take one more kick at the flu shot and then move on.  It’s a personal decision as to whether one gets the shot and so it should remain.  (However, and notably, one of my sisters who works in a hospital not too far from where I live informed me that it is not an option for employees at that facility, they are required to take the shot.  I have to think that there is a huge human rights violation in this stance, it just hasn’t been challenged.)

It hasn’t been hard to fill the time that I have been off – all my body wants to do is sleep.  When I am awake I try to do something that gets me out of bed and that’s not a bath, the two things I craved while I was away (my bed and tub) just don’t have the same appeal.  So over the course of the last week I thought that I would look up the product monograph for the flu shot in general to see if the warnings or contraindications had changed much over the years.

What probably surprised me most was that it wasn’t easy to locate the individual monographs. I’ve spent years doing this stuff and have a whole assortment of ways to search.  In a nutshell, going to big pharma and reading about their trade name flu shots gives you some information and generally the PR version as to why the shot is necessary. Most websites usually refer you to the product insert in the packaging for more details.  Hmm that’s not very helpful.  Even when you get the shot, the nurse or doctor doesn’t say “oh and here’s the product insert, be sure to read it.” Actually, it’s one of the few instances where you get nothing detailed. In Canada when you pick up any prescription it is always accompanied by lots of paper outlining potential contraindications.  So no product monograph on the couple of individual sites I visited.  No problem.

The information has to be available to the public and it is.  Even better, it’s nicely captured on one website:  The list includes those pharmaceutical companies supplying this year’s product.  I’m not entirely certain what vaccine I got, because I got nothing when I had the shot, but I tend to think a GlaxoSmithKline is most likely.  Interestingly, in this instance, on this centralized site, the GSK link to a product monograph doesn’t offer up the information immediately, rather the link takes you to a request page. Anyway, lots of the others are available, read a couple of them, they are all formatted in the same manner, so after a while you can skim through them.

One common element is the following clause:

Nonclinical Toxicilogy:  Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

“TRADENAME” has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

This is a mandatory disclosure in Canada, and I am sure if it wasn’t big pharma would have that out of there in the blink of an eye.  Regardless, I get that it is a seasonal product and therefore long term evaluation of the effects of the specific product are problematic due to the changing composition of the vaccine. But likely there are some elements that are constant, how and in what is it suspended and preserved?  My rational mind says we are playing with fire here.  Shooting ourselves up with a vaccine that may or may not help based on a scientific guess as to what the flu will look like.  Creating a man made version of it and then hitting up half the globe with it because people are frightened of what could happen if they don’t get it.  Regardless of where we live, we all start to hear the media buzz – the stories start in September every year about how this could be the worst year ever.  Hmm, wonder who may have a special interest in getting that messaging out?  We are sheep, just a flock of sheep.  Drive us straight to the edge of the cliff and watch us fall over.

My thoughts have tormented me on this.  When did I get sucked in?  I got sucked in when Kevin got sick, I didn’t want to expose him to anything, so I got the flu shot.  I didn’t get sick while I looked after him but it had nothing to do with the shot, and everything to do with the measures we implemented and the diet we maintained.  Feet are firmly planted back on the ground, it only took this hellish experience to get me there.  Enough on this, so much more to cover relating to the cruise.


What came first, the cold or the cruise?

So much to write about, but where to start?  Let’s start with the flu shot.  I had a cruise booked from November 12 to 19. Out of Miami, and miraculously none of the four ports we were scheduled to stop at had been decimated by hurricanes, typhoons or other acts of God.  What a lovely thought, kicking off winter going some place warm, but I had to get there first.  That meant exposure, germs, coughing, sneezing, slimey little bacteria lurking to nab an innocent victim.

It was a bit early for the flu shot, but I tracked it down – available at a local clinic.  The clinic was open for seniors and immune compromised individuals.  I spoke to my doctor to get in and get the shot, explaining my travel plans.  Fortunately she agreed with me, I needed the flu shot, my history indicated that I don’t travel well.  Three weeks before my cruise I was in and vaccinated.  Take that, evil germs!

I got the shot on a Friday after work, by that night I was feeling awful.  My shoulder really hurt.  The next morning, full of aches and pains I decided maybe I was one of the unlucky ones to experience a more severe reaction.  Oh, well better the suffering before the cruise than on the cruise.  By the next Monday, I was okay, felt a little under the weather but got through the week.  By the next weekend I felt awful again, body aches and pains, a headache, those normal seasonal things that working in a large office exposes one to.  By the end of the week heading into the cruise I was pumped, felt great.  Ready to go, confident that I had dealt with all the stuff that I now associated with that flu shot.  It was worth it to ensure I was in optimal shape for travelling.

Itinerary:  Friday – drive to Toronto and stay overnight at the airport, Saturday – depart Toronto to Miami where we’d overnight and on Sunday pick up the cruise.  A nice leisurely, stress free, relaxed approach to getting from point A to point B.  Not without risk of germs though, flying has always been the most likely place for me to pick up something.

I was travelling with my sisters – one was healthy, one was germy, also a significant risk for obvious reasons. No fear, I had my flu shot.  I was taking immune boosters, I was going into this trip feeling good, I had this.  Nope.  By Sunday night, the first night of the cruise I started to feel awful. By Tuesday I’d lost my sense of taste and couldn’t breathe.  By Thursday, I had my taste back but had started coughing.  By the time it got to the weekend I was dreaming, or was it hallucinating, about my brass bed and my bathtub. I just wanted to be home.

I always bring some supplies with me when I travel, but nothing touched this.  The ship’s store had no supplies to speak of, and the ports we stopped in had all sorts of available medication – but I didn’t know what I needed.  I had a friend on the same cruise with me.  Thank God!  Not only did she bring stuff, but she brought essential oils to use.  Unfortunately the cough, cold, flu whatever had gripped me too fast but at least I could knock myself out with sinus medication.

So here I sit, at home just writing about this now.  Why, because it didn’t end there.  I managed to go into work the Tuesday after I got back and squeaked out the week.  By last Friday I was in the throes of a high fever, aches and pains, extreme fatigue and nausea.  I decided to stay home Monday and heal, nope got worse.  Yesterday I visit the doctor.  A miracle really, because her office was actually closed, she was doing paperwork, but they squeezed a few people in, and I was one of the lucky ones.  The result – “No point in swabbing you now,” says the doctor, “You’ve had this for a bit.  It sounds like the flu, it’s here in the community, but something else is going on there.  Sinus infection.  And to be safe let’s get a chest X-ray while you’re here.  Yes, you’re contagious until the fever goes away and the cough stops.  Bed rest, I’ll call you when I get the x-ray back.”

Today, she called me about the x-ray.  Pneumonia.  Why not?