I thought I should write about this before the pain somewhat eased. I am referring to the pain in my biceps. Words like injections and blood have always scared me. The sight of a tiger would perhaps not scare me as much as a sight of a syringe would. Only sheer mental strength prevents me from passing out every time I need a shot or a vaccination.
My department thinks that international students are a depot of germs and diseases. Within a week of arriving here, I was handed a long list of vaccinations I was supposed to take at the department health clinic. Despite being immunized right from childhood, handing over all my previous health records, and being in the pink of health, I had to take more vaccines, including the TB test.
Suddenly images from the past vaccination and blood test experiences came flooding back. A clinic that smelled like chloroform and alcohol. Really ill patients. Babies crying. People with plasters and limb casts and wounds ready to be fomented. How I was dreading this. I remember when a friend was leaving the city and had asked me to help pack, they had accidentally slashed their hand while using the knife. Instead of being useful, I had fainted, and they were the ones sprinkling water on my face.
Being alone in a new country made the anticipation of pain and suffering worse. Doctors are liars. They always lie that injection shots feel like ant bites. Maybe I had excess bradykinin, the pain-causing factors in my body.
I was already half dead by the time I entered the immunization clinic. Full dead actually, half from all-day classes, and the other half from fear. What more, I had a meeting in the next 30 minutes, so I did not really have the time to sit back and cry.
When I entered the clinic, I was a little taken aback by the ambience. There were no wailing babies or wounded patients. What amazed me even more was the fact that there was no stench of chloroform or blood. Okay, so this is how it is in America, I told myself. So health clinics here did not reek of suffering and death. Maybe the needles here did not pain that much either.
I was soon made to fill up a couple of forms and directed towards a semi-shielded cubicle. The lady attending me made me sit and asked me unusual questions. Was I allergic to things? Did I have anemia or a low blood pressure? Did I pass out at the sight of blood? Back in India, with the long queue waiting outside, nobody would actually bother to ask all this.
Soon a wicked idea popped up in my head. What if I scared her a bit, would she be a little more compassionate towards me? I made a very serious face and told her that I always passed out when I saw blood. And just when I was expecting the usual rebuff of being too old to feel pain or fear, she took me to one of the nearby beds and asked me to lie down.
I saw some of the most amazing things that day. At every table, there were trays of candies and chocolates, and no two of them were the same. You could pick whatever you wanted, as many you liked. Like a child, I soon found my eyes raving at the sight of so many candies, undecided as to which one I should pick. When the lady asked me if I was scared, I told her that I was scared, so I preferred looking at the candy tray. She asked me how do I keep in touch with my family, and if it is very expensive to make phone calls or trips to India. And jut when I was starting to calculate my monthly phone bill, she pricked me hard.
And we are through….
Oh, so soon?
Yeah. So how expensive is calling them up?
I was so engrossed looking at the candies and calculating figures in my head that the initial trauma of seeing someone approaching with a needle was gone. Later, no hairy guy rubbed my arm hard with a swab of Dettol-soaked cotton, making me sick with the smell of the antiseptic and the sight of that one drop of blood. The punctures were neatly sealed with band aids, making my arm looked like someone did patchwork.
For every vaccine that I got, I was given a handout of what I was vaccinated for and why. They made sure that no person was ignorant about why they were being vaccinated. And they gave me a complete handout for the dates when I’d have to go next. Very organized. I would even receive regular email updates whenever my vaccine dates were due.
Pricking me multiple times on the same arm hurt a lot. The Mantoux test was even more painful. But I don’t dread going there now. As long as I get to choose and take whatever candies I want to, I don’t really mind a little pricking here and there.