Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sea monkey see, sea monkey do

I'm fortunate to be one of those people who have little trouble swallowing pills. Then too, I have no particular aversion to needles, as in hypodermic needles. I take a handful of pills everyday and I've had countless needles stuck in my arms for countless procedures over the months I've had cancer. No muss, no fuss.

I don't know how people typically develop a fear of needles, but I would imagine some sort of traumatic experience was usually involved.

Looking back perhaps I should have an aversion to needles since I did have something of a traumatic experience when I was about 12 and still living in Scotland. In truth though, I think it was far more traumatic for the kid in front of me in line.

In the early Sixties, the polio vaccine had just been approved for use and authorities wasted no time inoculating children. In my memory, none of us had been vaccinated before, or at least not en masse. So there was the sense of adventure as we all trooped out of class into the inoculation area. Of course, girls formed one line and boys formed the other. It would take more than the fight against a terrible disease to disturb that bit of decorum.

The lines weren't separated by much, so there was a certain amount of posturing up and down the boys line. The ladies would see no shoddy examples of faint heart in the male ranks; not British, you know.

From my spot in the line, I wasn't completely sure that there wasn't some faintheartedness afoot, but it was hard to tell. The pushing, shoving and posturing generally seen when boys our age were made to line up for anything were present, but, to me, seemed subdued.

Before I continue, let me just say something about hypodermic needles of the day. I'm sure they weren't the knitting needle-sized jabbers that I remember, but nor were they the hair-thin pokers of today. It also seems like a needle could be used more than once, though sterilized in between uses, and word was that some were, therefore, duller than others.

This gave an added level of post-inoculation bravado with the common claim: “Och aye. Ye should have seen the size o the thing; like ma mum's knittin' needles. And ah saw them use it on at least a dozen lads beforrrre they used it on me.”

Still, the John Neilson Institution's polio vaccination day was going along just fine. Most of the boys still wore short pants as part of our uniform. For this occasion, we had taken off our white shirts, school ties and blazers, This state of atypical undress, outside of the gymnasium, caused enough discomfort for the volume of chatter to fade into the general soundtrack of the event.

One of the interesting things was that most of the noise was coming from the back of the lines, where the jab was still something of a promise. As we got closer to the nurses, we seemed to focus most of our attention on the needle, hoping for a sharp one, little used, bragging rights be damned.

Finally, my turn was near, only one kid in front of me in fact. I don't remember his name, but he seemed small for his age and was known as a quiet child. He stepped up to the nurse, as he'd seen so many do, and almost immediately dropped to the floor like he'd been hit with a cricket bat. I mean, one minute the kid is standing and the next minute he's unconscious, bringing the conveyor-like efficiency of the vaccinations to a complete halt.

Nobody laughed or made fun of the kid. That would come later. I can tell you this, though. The nurses wasted no time getting rid of the body. I mean, the kid was still alive, but his laying there was going to have a negative impact on efficiency. I'm not sure what they did with him, but I did see him later in the day and he was fine.

They also didn't waste anytime dragging the next boy, me, into position. Slam, bam, thank you ma'am, Take that polio! Next!

I would guess this story came to mind because I just started a course of 18 self-injected doses of a medicine designed to stimulate the growth of my baby stem cells, or, as a friend of ours calls them, Jim's sea monkeys.

Now, Sheri is an insulin dependent diabetic and has been for 20 years. I have watched her insert countless needles into herself over the years. Our beloved cat Samantha was insulin dependent the last few years of her life, and we gave her twice-daily shots. So, I got to see a lot of nice needlework over the years.

Of course, almost all those shots were pretty painless to me. I'm not saying I was all scaredy-cat about injecting myself, but... In the end it was a case of no guts, no glory, no choice. It did help to remember that a healthy sea monkey is a happy sea monkey.

Thank You note: We wanted to thank all of you who have shared and/or donated to the Go Fund Me site our daughters, Alison, Jennifer and Kristie, have established. We're much more used to helping others than being helped, so it's been hard for us to allow even our kids to reach out like this. However, this isn't really the time for pride to guide our decision making. If you would like to see photos of us and our family- and maybe even make a donation :)- visit www.gofundme.com, and enter my name or Finding the Pony in the search box.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”