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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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Readers Blog: Open Heart Blog

Taking A Shot

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        I got a flu shot last week. The next day, I came down with the flu… (okay, according the CDC’s website, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot but you can experience side effects like aches and a fever, which, sorry, is pretty much the flu and makes you feel like crap.)

        Everybody everywhere is saying how this year is going to be the worst flu season ever. Oh my God! Oh my God! It’s all over the news: get a flu shot or you’re doomed!

        So I stopped in at Osco where I get my laundry list of other meds and got a shot.

        I never got flu shots up until a couple of years ago.

        We didn’t go to doctors much when I was a kid. We never had health insurance for one thing. My dad “didn’t believe” in health insurance, like it was the Easter Bunny or ghosts. He called it “a racket,” paying into a fund you never use. In his case that was pretty much true, it worked out for him. No one in my family really had any major medical problems. I only went to the hospital a few times. But when you’re checking in and you tell them you don’t have insurance they whisk you off to another room. They speak to you in hushed, stern tones. Even if your kid has a 104-degree temperature, sweating and shivering on his mom’s lap. Only after my dad whipped out his checkbook did they let us in.

        [Of course, going to the hospital when I was a kid didn’t mean going bankrupt. I was going through some old medical records and came across this bill for my first hospital stay. Room: $21. X-ray: $5. Labs: $7. How quaint. And sad at the same time.]

        We paid for check-ups and prescriptions, dentists, in cash, too.

        It also meant if I slipped while ice-skating and fractured my wrist, my parents would tell me to run hot water over it, it’ll be fine. I still have a clicking sound in that arm when I rotate my hand.

        See, along with ghosts and insurance, my dad also “didn’t believe” in doctors. He didn’t trust them. Which meant, by the time he had to visit one, he was in bad shape. He’d visit the dentist but only to have him yank whatever rotting tooth was giving him trouble. He didn’t even want to see a doctor after his first stroke.

        So, yeah, flu shots were way down on our list.

        But I have insurance now. (Good thing, too, I guess: a quadruple bypass costs a tad more than $21 these days). And flu-like symptoms that aren’t the flu…

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