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Needle Panic

Updated: Sep 10

By Naomi Serviss


NYC children lined up for their shots in 1944
NYC children lined up for their shots in 1944

Needles terrified me as a kid.



Anticipating a sharp jab

was worse than its sting.


It triggered

so much anxiety I hyperventilated.


The phobia haunted me for years,


and my older brother teased me mercilessly.


Often with sharp objects.


Some siblings tease one another

affectionately.


When I was four years old, my mother


ditched her husband

and packed four out of five kids


onto a Greyhound bus from


Rhode Island to Philadelphia.


She had a friend in Elkins Park,

a luxe suburb, and settled there.

My mother’s oldest son had joined the Air Force

after his father kicked him out.


My mother, four kids in tow,


moved from one crummy apartment

to another.


Sometimes at night.


Never gave a definitive reason.



Dr. Edward Jenner, the father of the modern vaccine, giving the first smallpox vaccination in 1796
Dr. Edward Jenner, the father of the modern vaccine, giving the first smallpox vaccination in 1796

I was six when we moved into the first floor


of a nondescript and poorly maintained

three-story house


carved into apartments.


Railroad tracks steps from the house

separated the haves from the have-nots.


My divorced mother worked for radiologists.


Two older sisters, a brother and I begrudgingly shared the one bedroom.


A daybed in the living room for my mother.


Burnt orange and stained vinyl flooring in the

ancient kitchen.


Noisy driveway gravel outside its window

heralded approaching cars.

Between the cement-footed upstairs-neighbors


and a rarely-home working mother


whose go-to method of self-expression

was screaming,


No one slept well.


One night stands out.


I was startled from a rare deep

sleep in the crowded bedroom.

Something was touching my arm.

My eyes flew open.

My mother’s face loomed grotesquely.

She shushed me.


I noticed she had

something in her right hand.


It was a needle, poised for injection.


I jumped out of bed and ran screaming

into the living room


for sanctuary.


I slept fitfully, with a night light,

after that trauma.


An 1802 engraving entitled “The Cow Pack–or–the Wonderful Effects of the New Innoculation”
An 1802 engraving titled “The Cow Pack–or–the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation”

I was a thumb sucker until I was 10.


My two front teeth became gapped and

buck.


My oldest brother called me “Bugs.”


He wasn’t kind.


On the upside, I became resilient,


And eventually kicked my needle phobia

to the curb.


When I was a school kid, required vaccinations were for:


Smallpox

Diphtheria

Tetanus

Pertussis

Polio

Measles

Mumps

Rubella


Good policy

for the common good.


We elementary kids were once pleasantly


surprised to have

a vaccine-inserted sugar cube


doled out by school nurses


in the district’s junior high.


What kid wouldn’t be?

We elementary school kids were bused to

Ogontz Junior High that day.


A vivid memory.


I marveled at the landscaped campus grounds.


The bus lumbered up the windy hill

overlooking the tony town.


Ogontz was the original Cheltenham High

School.


My oldest sister’s graduating class was its last.


 Vaccinations being given in Jersey City during the smallpox scare
Vaccinations being given in Jersey City during the smallpox scare

When my kids were little and needed

vaccinations, I held them in my lap,


reassuring and distracting them.


It didn’t always work.


If they cried, I cried.


Bottom line: I trusted the science

that produced the vaccines.

Anything to protect my kids and everyone else.


It does take a village!



A mega Covid-19 vaccination site in Seattle this year
A mega Covid-19 vaccination site in Seattle this year

When the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines

were made available,


I couldn’t get jabbed fast enough.


Dr. Fauci was (and is) a trusted

source.


He gives good data and a just-the-facts delivery.


His infectious disease expertise

is the gold standard.


I’m relieved my kids and husband are vaccinated

And healthy.


Boosters should be taken eight months

after your final shot.


During last week’s high school Zoom reunion,


one guy mentioned his upcoming appointment for one.


Way before eight months!


I nearly followed suit,


until reading a Forbes magazine piece.


Consider Forbes’ Bruce Y. Lee’s sage bottom line:


“It is better to stick as close

to the official recommendation

until further notice.


“Again remember, timing is

everything in life.

There can be such a thing

as premature vaccination.”








Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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