Get your feet wet

Swine flu changed everything

When it comes to flu shots, as parents, Michael and I are THOSE PEOPLE: the ones who refuse to immunize their children.

Now granted, we’re not THOSE PEOPLE, the whole hog, total anti-vaccination nutjobs who think an MMR is behind autism and back fat and low credit scores, or that the Hep B immunization is a government plot to ensure your precious newborn someday ends up on Like I said, we’re just not down with the flu shot: we don’t like the idea of deliberately giving our kids a potent flu vaccine that hasn’t undergone significant testing, and at the same time, we’re comfortable strengthening their immune systems with anything they accidentally pick up. Do we get sick? Occasionally, to date, but not body-fluids-painting-the-house sick, and certainly not enough to change our position.

AND THEN CAME SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC ’09. . . Like every other parent, I was troubled by the pediatric death statistics, but I also knew that as of the start of this month, there had only been one H1N1-related pediatric death in King County per the Centers for Disease Control: a 5-month-old with underlying health issues. I checked my pediatrician’s web site every morning for updated information: they’d ordered enough doses for every clinic patient, but their vaccine supplies had long been depleted and they had no information on when more would arrive. Still, my kids were otherwise healthy; should they contract anything before the vaccine was available, I felt reasonably assured we’d weather it like we always had: miserably, maybe (that’d be “Happy Feet” on perpetual replay and a popcorn-and-juice diet), but as a family.

Finally, last Friday, the clinic’s web site announced they were making the vaccine available on Sunday for children 6-35 months old — literally for NO child a day over 3. Which meant that we’d have a narrow opportunity to have Nola vaccinated, but not Eliot.

Which just made me all, “Hey, Ballard Pediatrics, way to turn a simple flu shot into fucking ‘Sophie’s Choice!’ ”

Mike was against it on principle, and more important, the fact that he didn’t want to be somewhere at 9 on a Sunday morning. Turned out that was a helluva lot smarter than he thought: check out these photos of hundreds of families waiting in a line that started at 5:30 AM and stretched four city blocks. When I saw those images later in the day, instead of being worried that we hadn’t at least had Nola vaccinated, I immediately thought, “This is officially ridiculous! This is now MASS HYSTERIA!!” (Or to quote my good friend James, who’s far less prone to the use of exclamation marks, “The same people in line at oh-dark-thirty for H1N1 will be the most likely victims of a WalMart stampede on Black Friday. The herd is the herd.”)

So there I am, feeling all smug about not flapping at flies with my tail on this particular issue, when on Tuesday the New York Times runs a tiny little piece about parents opting out of the H1N1 vaccine. And it’s no big deal, except that among the comments, I come across a woman who never gets her kids flu vaccines, and decided against H1N1 too — and then her entire family contracted swine flu and she called it “the most miserable two weeks we’ve ever endured.”

Let me just repeat that, TWO WEEKS OF SWINAL MISERY. Can you IMAGINE TWO WEEKS of fevers and vomiting and “Happy Feet” and popcorn and screaming at each other about who’s turn it is to change who’s diaper? (Totally your turn to change mine, Mike.) I went straight to our pediatrician’s web site and — just two days after all those people had stood in that ridiculous line — they were booking appointments for H1N1 vaccinations. Eliot and Nola went in this morning.

Things looked a lot different around Ballard Pediatrics than usual. First of all, they’d removed everything that wasn’t bolted down:


The classic typewriters the girls love to clack on every time we visit were gone, as was the corner of wooden toys — even every last book.

Also, the nurse who administered the girls’ nasal mist was wearing this badass t-shirt, which she’d designed:


“I love the band the Foo Fighters,” she said, “so my first thought was we should be the ‘Flu Fighters.’ Then I thought, ‘No, we’ll be even tougher than that — we’ll be the ‘KUNG Flu Fighters’!” Kicking viral ass!

The girls did great, and are now suitably immunized. Mike and I? Totally infectious. And STILL those people.


  • cardiogirl

    November 13, 2009 at 1:49 am

    You know I love you and your writing Tracy (well done on Sophie’s Choice!), but I really want James to be my snarky friend because of this:

    β€œThe same people in line at oh-dark-thirty for H1N1 will be the most likely victims of a WalMart stampede on Black Friday. The herd is the herd.”

    I have to say, living in an anti-social bubble has really helped me on this one. I’m in that ignorance is bliss camp. I don’t read about it, I casually hear about it and if I’m gonna vomit myself into an agonizing death so be it.

    Yeah, that means my kids will probably go down with me or worse go and leave me behind to nurse my guilt for the rest of my life. But I’m not worked up yet. This is actually odd, since I like to take a topic and figure out how to worry about six ways til Sunday (til Sunday, till Sunday, from Sunday, to Sunday — not sure which is correct but I’ll run through all of them when I’m on a worry rampage.)

    So there you go. My decision is made by indecision and apathy in this case (she said as she coughed and sputtered while trying to wipe the sand out of every orifice on her head.)

    • Tracy

      November 13, 2009 at 3:28 pm

      Good on you, CG. Clearly you lack my primary motivator, which is MIKE — who, when sick, is 180 pounds of sniveling whine-sack. I can deal with a couple days of collective gaaack in this place, but the prospect of two long weeks of carrying all three of ’em on my vomitous back was chilling enough to turn the LOT of us into lab rats.

      Otherwise, I say your apathy is a PLAN. Because lemme tell ya, people out there are seriously fuckin’ STRESSED over this. And haven’t they heard stress just taxes your immune system? πŸ˜‰

  • James

    November 13, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Way to go, Tracy. You have definitely separated yourself from the herd. You did your homework, discussed the issue, made an appointment and vaccinated your children, who are in the high risk group. All of which was done without a predawn wakeup and dragging your wee ones out in the cold, wet weather. Well done.

    Lisa and I are expecting our first (and last) child in 28.5 days (who’s counting). For those who know me realize my son will be well “protected” to the extent of my considerable abilities. That said, he will not have a hand sanitizer dispenser strapped to his chest in the off chance he, heaven forbid, touches a blade of grass, one of Mother Nature’s creepy crawlies in the back yard or even chooses to pick his nose like boys/men like to do. As Douglas Adams wrote in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, “Don’t Panic!”

    And to Cardiogirl……All snarky friends are welcome. Especially those with such great taste in writers (that would be Tracy, definitely not me πŸ˜‰ )

    Be safe,


    • Tracy

      November 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm

      Oh yeah, don’t even get me started on THOSE PARENTS. . .

      It’s like that episode of “Monk” where Monk and Natalie are watching some tiny boys playing football and Monk says, “Aww, that reminds me of the helmet I wore as a kid.” And Natalie says, “What do you mean? Your parents made you wear a HELMET?” And Monk’s all, “Whaddya mean, ‘MADE’?”

      Because seriously, if you’re interested in being a hysterical, paranoid parent, there’s a WHOLE INDUSTRY OUT THERE ready to cater to fears you didn’t even know you had!!

      (By the way, the Clarklet will fall down, bump his head, and wail like a tiny mofo. He will also eat dirt, use his poo for finger paint, and play in a sandbox a cat may have mistaken for a litter box. And whatever avaricious marketers say to the contrary, these are the makings of a completely normal, HEALTHY childhood.)

      • cardiogirl

        November 14, 2009 at 1:30 am

        I have to jump in here. First I thought you wrote “…(will) use his POO FINGER for paint…)” and I was like what the hell? There’s a poo finger? I’ve never heard of a poo finger. My kids don’t have a poo finger.
        Is the poo finger exclusive to diapers and disappears when the kid is out of diapers?

        (clears throat) And then I re-read the sentence.

        Last item — we’re in the trust tree, right? Right. My second kid actually sucked on a dried out piece of cat turd in a playground sandbox. Gah, the memory of it stills make me shudder.

        So we left immediately, I washed her down and brushed her teeth and then I called the pediatrician to make sure she wasn’t going to die. I truly thought the SWAT team was going to bust down the door and remove my kid while I was on the phone with her.

        She did make me feel much better. She told me shit happens (swear there was no pun intended there) and she’ll be fine.

        That was four years ago and we all lived through it.

        Damn, maybe my kid did have a poo finger after all.

  • LJ

    November 14, 2009 at 11:00 am

    After your very kind comment (on Cardiogirl) I felt it only right to pop by for a visit. Love the entry. You have a wonderful way to turn a phrase. And to top it off – you’re from the Pacific Northwest (I think). Gotta love those west coast writers.

    To immune or not to immune – that is the question. Whether it be nobler to stand in line to suffer the pricks and arrows of liquid assist …. only time will tell.

    • Tracy

      November 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

      And I believe you’re in BC, LJ, my very favorite place after my town of Seattle. Mike and I make a habit of Vancouver and Vancouver Island as time and finances allow, and I have Lotto fantasies of having a second home up there, what with y’all always taunting us with your health care and your gorgeous mountains and your Badass Socialist Thanksgiving (on a MONDAY, no less!).

      • LJ

        November 14, 2009 at 7:09 pm

        Yup – I sure love it over here. Victoria – on Vancouver Island.
        We might have Thanksgiving on a Monday, but can’t/don’t make it an entire week holiday like you folks do. What’s with that? Yours is so close to Christmas that I don’t know how you can face turkey so soon.

        • Tracy

          November 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm

          Oooh, Victoria. We love to take the Clipper up once a year or so, and we always make a special occasion of high tea at the Empress. Makes us feel fancy, and like we taught our 2- and 3-year-old some shockingly fine table manners.

          We just turn Thanksgiving into a 4-day holiday, but really, it’s about two things I hate: football and shopping. The Friday after is Black Friday, the day US retailers are officially supposed to come out of the red what with their ridonculous sales, and then some insanity occurs, which my friend James alluded to — invariably, some poor soul gets trampled to death over a $49.99 BluRay player.

          (Me, I just stay home with my credit card and my Wifi connection and my intact limbs.)

          And you’re right, that’s WAY too much bird in too short a time span. In an effort to avoid a month-long tryptophan nap, Christmas at my place means a prime rib or a ham.

  • LJ

    November 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Tracy – in response to you flickr comment – I don’t do Esty. I don’t know much about it really, other than I’ve noticed a number of bloggers sell stuff there. The pressure of the thought of selling my creations is too great. I’m much more of a giver-awayer. The pressure really comes on when I feel I ‘have’ to create, and that loses some of the enjoyment of creating for me. Do you know what I mean? But I’ll look into the Etsy thing, and in particular what your selling there. Thanks for the encouragement though, that means a lot to me.

  • Jennifer Nocerino

    November 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Hey Trac,

    Love the swine flu article. All very true. I just need to ask why the hell did the CDC send H1N1 vaccines to all the Goldman Sachs employees BEFORE they sent them to pediatricians, health care workers, and pregnant women? What the hell is wrong with these people? Let’s say this became an all out epidemic with people dropping like flies (which will never happen), but let’s just say…for arguments sake….THOSE are the folks the CDC feels we need to SAVE? WTF? I am already annoyed with these wall street folks for our economy, and the fact that they all still get “helathy” bonuses while the rest of us struggle, but now they get vaccines before babies and pregnant women? Way to go CDC.


    • Tracy

      November 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

      Obviously, whereas the rest of America has pictures of their kids and pets in their cubicles and on the fridge, CDC workers have photos of Goldman Sachs execs in their yachts and aboard their private jets. Awww, wookata cute widdle CFO in his diamond-crusted swimming pool — ADORBS!!!!!

      Bleecch, this is why I’ve been on a self-imposed news fast the past week or so. It’s all so miserably depressing or riotously infuriating, it’s all I can do to keep my head out of a bucket of Xanax.


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