What an ass

Never assume, it makes an ass out of you and me. That saying makes me grin. It’s so true. I try hard not to make too many assumptions, wrestling them to the ground and pummelling them when I spot them creeping up on me. But the pesky blighters are the masters of disguise, and I often don’t realise they have visited. An absolute classic happened to me a few weeks back.

It all started with our prep for our Caribbean Cruise. We had chosen carefully: small ship, sunny destination, no kids, all inclusive. I had shopped in advance, knowing there would be very little beachwear at this time of year. I had booked our excursions. Passports checked. Visas sorted. And somewhere in the back of my mind, a little nagging voice said I should check for our vaccination needs. I had a feeling I wouldn’t need much for our destination, but I fought against the assumption we wouldn’t need anything and hauled myself down to our GP surgery along with hubby. It was an annoying process, having to list every island we would be visiting, but that’s very much a first world problem. One evening, a few weeks ahead, we found ourselves in the waiting room, ready for our date with some needles. 

The nurse saw us together and started with hubby first. MMR was her first port of call (see what I did there?), she ascertained he was of the generation that got sent down the road to pick up viruses when he was a toddler. Therefore safe in the knowledge that he had the infections they moved on. Next was dyptheria, tetanus and polio; he hadn’t had it, the sleeve was rolled up and in a flash he was done. Sorted. 

Now before I get to the point about the spectacular assumption I made, I want to make a quick point. Don’t leave your vaccines too late. We had a stern lecture from the nurse about rabies. They didn’t offer the shot at the surgery, but regardless we would have been too late for it to have taken effect anyway as you need 28 days. I wish I had a pound for every time the nurse said the word rabies during the lecture. So we crossed our fingers that there would be no rabid dogs on our boat. I’m making light of it, but we would have had the vaccine if we had time, especially when her parting words were ‘you will die if you get rabies.’ Great. 

Anyway, back to the point. It was now my turn. I was ready. Needles don’t bother me. Bring it on. MMR. Check. Had it when I was a child. Move on. The nurse paused, studied me like a naughty child and asked me a question. It went something like this.

Nurse: How old are you?
Me: 39
Nurse: You haven’t had it.
Me: Yes I have. (Indignant) 
Nurse: You can’t have, it wasn’t invented. (Smug) 
Me: They caught us up in school.
Nurse: Unlikely. How many vaccines do you remember having?
Me: One
Nurse: You haven’t had it. (Extra smug) 
Me: Yes I’m sure I have. I remember the school doing a mass innoculation. 

I’m now protesting and she’s holding her ground. There’s a possibly unvaccinated Mexican stand-off. I send hubby off to call my mum and check whilst I have the Dyptheria shot. I’m not accepting it and I’m still debating with her whilst he’s gone. If anyone had measles I wouldn’t have hesitated being around them and now she’s fundamentally unsettling what I thought to be true. And in case you are wondering, it doesn’t help the surgery doesn’t have any medical records for me. I’ve moved several times and it seems my records have taken a walk. Back to the situation. 

Me: I have that raised scar on my arm.
Nurse: Well that’s BCG.
Me: Oh
Nurse: I have the vaccine right here. It’s free to you. You can’t over-vaccinate. Isn’t it better to be sure?

I petulantly stick my arm out, she jabs me, and hubby comes back to say my mum isn’t sure but has a similar memory to me. 

You would think I would leave it there. But no, no. I’m annoyed and I don’t like to be that wrong about something. The next morning I contact my two childhood friends and ask if they think they’ve had MMR. They both felt confident they had. But like me, they weren’t sure. Luckily one had brilliant records and looked out her vaccination list,  and guess what – no MMR. We had a think about it and we start to wonder whether it was just rubella. She does an extra check with her doctors and again – no MMR. We had all assumed we were protected. None of us are. I had remembered incorrectly.

I was telling this story to another friend the other night, who travels extensively around the world. Having visited Russia and China in the past year I thought she would be an expert in vaccinations. But no, she hasn’t had one single vaccination. When did we all start assuming we would be ok? Have we become too busy to consider our health travel needs? There’s been a recent measles outbreak in the US and people are dying needlessly. Over 100 cases in over 20 states. It’s no joke. 

So I will happily have my booster shot. And I will look forward to seeing that nurse, who may have been a bit holier-than-thou but kudos to her. If I was the ass then she was the badass. Where would you be without health care professionals who give enough of a damn about you to challenge your beliefs? Don’t answer that! 

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  • Peggy Collins

    Great advice and wonderful words of wisdom. I’ve been reading that I’m in the group that should re-do their MMR because the vaccine might not have been effective. I’ve been ignoring it. Not anymore! Thanks Becky!

    • Somebody Somewhere

      I feel like this is karma Peggy. First time I met you, you got us out of the water so fast when it started thundering. Just passing safety messages to each other!