Double dose of dumb

e0f7347666a56586aafd709fd84353ab--pirate-flags-vinyl-cutterI’VE BEEN SWEATING lead-capped, high-caliber, silver bullets for three weeks, and here’s the reason why:

On the afternoon of March 28, I was sitting on the plaza downtown at a sidewalk table outside my sister-in-law’s coffee shop. Out walk a niece, her common-law husband and their daughter, Romina, who is two years old.

Go kiss your Uncle Felipe, the niece said, as her “husband” gave Romina a little urging in my direction, so over she trotted. I leaned over and planted one on her cute cheek.

I then asked where they were headed. To a doctor’s office, the mother replied. We think she has chickenpox … What! Internally, my head exploded. I was speechless. Unlike many people, likely most, I have never had chickenpox. So I am not immune.

While chickenpox is just a very itchy problem for kids, it’s quite a different matter for adults, and even more so for older adults, which is what I am. Among potential complications are pneumonia and encephalitis, swelling of the brain.

I ask myself, are these people living in the 19th century? Are they completely ignorant or just colossally irresponsible? I was dumbstruck and simultaneously angry on an epic scale. But I kept that to myself.

What I was facing was a cultural norm, a habit so deeply ingrained that it simply overrides all common sense. Coming and going, Latinos kiss friends and relatives, period. No matter what. It’s simply something you do.

I’ve lived with this for almost two decades. I’ve never liked it. I’m not a kissy person. I have little to no interest in kissing and hugging people aside from my child bride. But I’ve gone along with the custom, dodging it whenever I can.

I wish I’d dodged on March 28 because the child did have chickenpox.

That began three weeks of very sleepless nights, especially at the beginning. I learned online that chickenpox virus normally takes 10 to 21 days to incumbate in a new host, so you’re not out of the woods for three weeks.

But there is more. Further online investigation revealed that one can get the chickenpox vaccine after exposure. If you get it within three days, it reduces the probability of getting sick by 90 percent. Within five days, by 70 percent.

I liked those odds, so off I went to find the vaccine.

* * * *

Second dose of dumb

This was two days after the kiddie kiss. It was Saturday. Normally, I would have driven to the nearby capital city to the major hospital where we get our annual flu shots and whatever other vaccines are appropriate. But I was almost positive the vaccine office would not be open on a Saturday.

So I went to a government clinic here on the mountaintop where vaccines are available. It’s a humble spot on the outskirts of town. I was ushered into a small room where the door sported a sign that said Vaccines.

I explained my situation to the nice woman in there. She told me the chickenpox vaccine would not be available for another week or so. I responded something along the lines of:  Yipes! That’s not going to help me at all.

New ImageThat was when she went into another version of Latino Culture Mode, and that is to never say no. This trait is so widespread that it’s mentioned in virtually all tourist guidebooks.

Seeing that I was upset on hearing this, and I was, she decided to take a look into the fridge where vaccines were stored. And shocker! There it was. One sole, remaining dose of chickenpox vaccine. Whew! She gave me the shot.

Standard procedure here is to give the patient the label, or something, with the name of the vaccine. When I got home, I checked online about the shot she had given me. It was for measles, not chickenpox. I think the nurse knew this full well.

I think she just wanted to settle my mind. But what she had done was this: I had not received the chickenpox vaccine and, far worse, she had made it impossible to drive to the capital city on Monday to get the real deal.

Apparently, I learned, after receiving any anti-virus vaccine, one must wait at least six weeks before getting another. I was screwed in the vaccine department.

Were these cultural obsessions going to put me into the grave?

I sweated out the three weeks, which ended on Thursday. I did not get chickenpox. And I have announced to any relative within earshot that I am no longer available for kissing and hugging. They cannot be trusted.

And I’m still pissed off.

46 thoughts on “Double dose of dumb

  1. This is incredible. Laziness with severe repercussions and an embarrassment to the nursing profession. As a nurse myself, I am way beyond even incredulous of her actions. I know you probably don’t want anymore dealings with this situation, but she really, really needs to be reported to the Board of Nursing. I’m fairly certain Mexico has a board for each state. She is dangerous. But glad you are not symptomatic with the chickenpox virus.

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    1. Leisa, P.S.: I think my experience illustrates nicely the fact that excellent healthcare facilities are available in Mexico, in some ways superior to U.S. facilities, but so are places you seriously want to dodge. The latter include many government clinics, such as the place I got my measles shot. I went there because it seems to be the only place in town with vaccines. Otherwise, I would not have darkened their door.

      After living here a good spell, one learns the great places, and one should stick to the great places. They are almost always non-government facilities.

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  2. I bet after your six weeks wait is up you will run and get that chickenpox virus plus any other you might need. Unlike you, I have many grandchildren that I love to hug, but as we all know, these little rug rats are walking Petrie dishes. I am in bad shape with severe COPD, and getting a cold will put me in the Hospital! I sure wish they had a shot to immunize yourself against small children.

    Make sure all vaccinations are up to date. As great as Mexico is, I’m sure the vaccination program there may fall shot of north of the river.

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  3. Felipe: I understand your grief, but question some of the logic. About 18 months ago my wife and I were in the health centre to get our flu shots, and we were approached by a woman who identified herself as a public health nurse. She asked us some questions about what immunizations we had, and what illnesses we had had. She asked if we wanted to update our immunizations, and made an appointment for us. About a week later, we went back in and got pneumonia, mmr, chickenpox and tetanus, in three separate shots at the same time, two in one arm and one in the other. We probably should get the shingles vaccine too, I will ask about it next time I see my Texan GP.

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    1. Kris: I’m due for a hepititus booster, which I’ll do soon. And later this year I’m going to get the actual chickenpox shot, plus whatever else is appropriate.

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      1. We have large numbers of parents in the U.S. who are refusing to get their children vaccinated for anything. They say that they believe … any conspiracy that you want add here. As you might expect, they universally tend to be religious.

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        1. There is a very big anti-vaccination movement in the Pacific Northwest — almost exclusively leftist and secular, rather than sectarian. Bad choices come in all sorts of packages.

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      2. Felipe, Here is a way to be your own health advocate. Ask to see the vaccine label prior to it being administered to you. Your healthcare person should be more than glad to verify it right along with you. Peace of mind for the appropriate drug.

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        1. Leisa: Good idea, but what it said was “Viral Doble.” Would have told me nothing. I had to get home to my computer to see what that meant. But I’ll never get shots at that clinic again. I’ll continue at Star Medica, a huge, modern facility in the state capital. They do it right.

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  4. Congratulations, señor!

    This could have been a horrible outcome. As you admit, you are kind of long in the tooth to be dealing with such medical issues. Had to mention that. But don’t fret, it’s just a matter of time until the culture thing grabs you by the throat again. If it makes you feel any better about that, we have similar issues with the same culture up here in TX.

    I am of the generation that caught everything as soon as possible as a child. That’s just the way it was done back then in rural TX. I spent the Christmas vacation of my senior year in bed with the mumps.

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    1. Ricardo: I had the measles as a child but not mumps or chickenpox, at least as far as I recall. Yes, this could have ended quite badly. I lost quite a bit of sleep over it the first few days. Then I settled down for the most part. Well, not the anger.

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  5. Put yourself in the child’s Buster Browns for a moment, and think how she must feel about having to kiss a gnarly old person, which is just about anyone over the age of 35. And no matter how much you might relish a rapid but still moist peck on your crepey cheek delivered by someone whose life out of diaper is still shorter than the length of time you’ve been receiving Social Security, deploy your remaining strength to deflect all of that, sparing the poor child that moment of agony. This is the time to shelve your customarily good manners and assume the mantle of rudeness, waving the child away, lying about your highly contagious cold if you must. Gracias, gracias, pero no besos. You may piss off the child’s parents, but they can go to hell. You’re not taking these steps for the parents; you’re protecting the child. And the child will know that, in the way that children often know much, much more than adults believe they are capable. And the child will forevermore hold you in the highest regard for not playing along with that awful game. Just invoke the spirit of Nancy Reagan, and just say no.

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    1. Good advice. I long ago swore off hand-shaking and hugging, but not for health reasons. They are simply Meaningless Social Gestures that serve no purpose. The Me Too movement has now given me a moral platform on which to stand, I now ask people with outstretched hands why they feel the need to paw me. I am not going to let any of these lefty fads go unused.

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  6. I DO NOT BLAME YOU. I am married to a Mexican too. Married 53 years now. When we were first married, my mother-in-law had three little girls, and she was as dumb as a rock! She knew that I seem to catch every germ that came down the pike. Yet, with this knowledge, she brought all of the girls to our house, with every germ possible. I would even ask, are any of the girls sick? Oh no, would be the answer. Then as they walk in the front door, they are whooping and blowing. OMG, I always felt like I should kill her. You cannot stop them. They just can’t imagine what is wrong with YOU!

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    1. Beverly: How right you are. This kissing thing is so deeply entrenched in the culture that even dynamite won’t dislodge it. When you see a friend or relative, by God, you kiss them, come hell or high water. Not to do it is simply unimaginable. A good percentage of Mexicans would walk into a hospital room where a relative lay with bubonic plague, and they would lean over and kiss them right off the bat. It’s just something you do above all else. It trumps everything. It’s ridiculous.

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  7. I am happy to hear that you did not catch the chickenpox. It could have been a very rough experience for you. It is hard to believe that people parade their children around encouraging kissing and hugging, knowing they may be contagious. The most bizarre part of the story is the nurse giving you the measles vaccine in place of the chickenpox vaccine. When I got to this part of the story, I let out a loud gasp and told my husband that he had to read this. He started gasping at the part when the parents told you that she may have chickenpox! Since you did not get the chickenpox from the niece, I wonder if you may have had them when you were young and just don’t remember. And, I’m with you on the kissing and hugging nonsense. I will hug, but I have no interest in kissing people. I have had two men try to kiss me right on the mouth! One was my husband’s golfing buddy in Austin that I had just met for the first time. I turned away from him! The other was a friend in Houston. Both of these guys are Jewish, so I wonder if maybe it’s a Jewish thing.

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    1. Connie: I am not 100 percent sure I did not have chickenpox as a kid. just 95 percent. I do not remember it, but who knows? I vaguely recall my mother telling me years back that I did not have it as a kid. Haven’t had mumps either. Measles, yes. I remember that. I hope I’ve had chickenpox, but I do doubt it.

      As for those guys trying to kiss you on the mouth, that’s incredible. I do not think it’s a Jewish thing. It’s a ding-a-ling thing.

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  8. Perhaps they assumed an old Gringo like you had chickenpox at some point?

    Regardless, the virus that causes it is a nasty one that can result in other ailments. Glad you survived the exposure.

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    1. Ray: Quite likely they did assume I had already had chickenpox, but that’s no excuse. They did not know it. Anyway, letting anyone kiss a kid suspected of having a highly contagious affliction, well, don’t get me started.

      And yes, I too am glad I survived the exposure, to put it mildly.

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      1. I think I had chickenpox, but not sure. Pretty sure I had measles, I remember my mother had me sequestered in the dark for about a week because it was believed that light would cause blindness. Mostly ingrained in my head is the number of people afflicted with polio and tuberculosis. Anyone who lived through the days of the iron lung trusts vaccine.

        Now that I’m an old fart like you, my prescriptions are merely the pharmacist’s fee, being in the greatest country on earth, my healthcare is paid for by taxation, which is fine by me. Life is good, and there’s a chocolate bunny hidden for me to find tomorrow while the ham is cooking. Happy Easter!

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          1. That is a very good question. How did JT get in? My prescriptions down here cost no more than my co-pay used to cost up in Canada. I didn’t get a bunny today, but I jumped in the pool and sat in the sun so it was a good day again.

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            1. Kirk: JT got in because he’s good-looking and is named Trudeau. And also because a significant percentage of Canadian voters ain’t too sharp.

              I didn’t get a bunny today either!

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  9. Some people have strange attitudes toward healthcare. I have heard them bad-mouth doctors because they didn’t get better. But when I asked them if they took the medicine that was prescribed, the answer was “No, I didn’t want to pay the co-pay.” The same type of people will take anyone’s medicine but their own. They are always asking if we have pills. People that self-medicate scare me. Years ago, we were at my wife’s grandmother’s house. She noticed that I had a red eye. She said she had great medicine for that. She poured it into my eye. When she was done, I saw with the other eye that it was shoe polish. I had that stuff coming out of my head for weeks.

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  10. Hopefully, that rash and itch has not shown up. Years ago, I quit my job with the intention of taking the summer off. Then my sister-in-law came over with her kids. They had chickenpox. Well, one of my kids came down with it about three weeks later. I nursed him for about three weeks. He got well, but then the other boy got the rash. I was with him for another month. By then, it was time to go back to work.

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  11. Honestly, I’ll have to take the other side here. Sorry. But it’s your own responsibility to protect yourself, and you should darn well have gotten that chickenpox vaccine when you moved to Mexico. Or sooner. Right? You know there’s kids running around with chickenpox everywhere, and now you seem to be exposed to more of them than when you lived in the USA. And you know that as an adult chickenpox can be severe, or even deadly if you’re old enough.

    Isn’t that the libertarian credo? Self-responsibility? It isn’t anyone else’s job to protect your health.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where sometimes tough love is necessary.

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    1. P.S. The above doesn’t mean I think what the parents did was right; it was not. But your health is still your own responsibility.

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    2. Kim: Of course, getting vaccinated is important. I get flu vaccines every year. I’ve got the pneumonia vaccine. Hepatitis too. Probably some others I do not recall. And I will be getting the chickenpox too now. But the post is not about vaccines. It’s about a Latino cultural trait so overboard that it trumps all common sense. And the fact that I ain’t tossing kisses and hugs around willy-nilly down here anymore. And I also think it was a cultural trait that caused that nurse to give me a useless vaccine just so’s I’d feel more at ease. I do think she did that.

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      1. Well, indeed. And in the USA, as you know, that nurse would be in serious trouble. As for the 6-week waiting period, are you certain? I’ve never heard of such a thing. The MMR vaccine combines vaccines for three separate viruses that are given simultaneously, so that’s one strike against the six-week waiting thesis. Of course I don’t know, but I’d double-check if I were you. Cheers, and I hope you stay well.

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        1. Kim: I did read that six-month thing on a medical website. True or not? No matter. In a few weeks more, I’ll be getting the chickenpox shot, and some others too.

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