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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

D.I.Y Vaccinations - take `em or leave `em

Almost no time to go now till I`m zooming across the Atlantic, destination:Cancún, and I can`t be sure if my lack of nervousness is due to simply not thinking about it, or because I`m confident that everything is under control.

Errrr.. yeah; quite simply, it has to be the former.

So last Wednesday thanks to intermittent vague suggestions from friends that you need to have some vaccinations before going to Mexico I finally got round to typing the words into Google (I admit, doing this 2 months ago probably would have served better) and to my horror found that, indeed, several vaccinations are recommended for Mexico... but thank god, not required!

I didn`t feel all too comfortable browsing through the list of potential illnesses, investigating the side effects, and weighing up the potential risks; but I did it anyway and promptly moved on to making an appointment with the Doctor to see if there would be yet time to make up for this unfortunate oversight.

In the mean time I had the chance to learn all about Hepatitis A and Typhoid, the two recommended diseases to be vaccinated against before going to Mexico. In a way, they are similar. They are both transmitted through infected water, which in Mexico can mean the tap water. That also implies they can be caught from eating fruit and vegetables which have been washed in infected water, and from other foods which haven`t been thoroughly cooked. Luckily, neither of them seemed to be really dangerous. On top of that, both involve 3-4 unpleasant weeks bed-bound and the potential of getting to spend a great deal of quality time in the toilet; although for people with other problems, such as liver damage, they can be more complicated.

By this point I had obviously decided I didn`t want anything to do with either of them.

I also read that Hepatitis B could be a risk if you intend on exchanging bodily fluids with any locals, Rabies if you plan on getting close to any animals, and Malaria if you plan on getting bit by jungle insects. I decided I wouldn`t be doing any of those things and kept it simple by focusing on just the two which were most recommended.

On Friday I had my date with the Doc. After waiting 45 minutes longer than my allotted time (normal...) I went in, sat down, said one sentence, and was informed cheerily by her that I needed to make an appointment with ¨sanidad exterior¨ - the place where they apparently take care of vaccinations in Spain - and that most likely I hadn`t left enough time to sort it all out. She did, however, they reassure me that there were no necessary vaccinations for Mexico, only recommended ones; which I already knew of course.

So I speed marched back home, fired up Skype, phoned the number she give me, and had barely started blurting out the pre-concocted Spanish spiel in my head to the person on the other end when they abruptly interrupted me.

"Cuándo viajas?" (When do you travel?) they said. I told her when I would be travelling.

If you're confused at this point as to why there's Spanish going on before I reached Mexico, that's because I've lived in Spain for just under three years.

"La próxima cita libre es el 11 de agosto." (The next available appointment is the 11th of August.) they informed me, and then they proceeded to tell me off for leaving it too late. I began to sound a little hurt and their tone changed to a more helpful one. I was then told I would be put on stand-by and if there was a cancellation they would call me asap. The call ended with that and I had already decided that was more or less a lost cause.

So could I handle going without the jabs? I didn`t like the idea. Taking those sorts of risks stresses me out, so I decided to try one last long shot. I went straight to the nearest pharmacy and asked them if they knew of a private clinic where I could get the vaccinations done.

Guess what? They told me you can buy the bloody things right in the pharmacy! I almost didn´t believe it! The guy offered to order them in and told me they would be ready by tomorrow. Tomorrow! You´ve got to be kidding? 

I left pretty happy with that. I´d waltz in tomorrow, pick them up, take them, and that would be that, right? Well I was in for one last rather shocking surprise on this wonderful vaccination trawl, and as in happens it wasn´t the price. Both vaccines ended up costing me a measly €40. Well, perhaps itś not so measly but I was prepared for something more like €60.

However the surprise came when I got home and unpacked them...

Syringes?? You have got to be shitting me! Seriously?? SERIOUSLY??

Yes... seriously. The instructions casually informed me that the injections should be intramuscular, into a muscle, and that they should be performed by a trained medical professional. Well that wasn`t going to happen. I didn´t have the time or money to make that happen, and I decided I`d seen enough TV to give this a go myself. Yeah, that`s right - I decided it was self-injection time.

At this point I may be giving the impression that I went in all guns blazing Rambo style and plunged the needles directly into my thighs without a second thought, but the reality was quite different. I spent the next two hours reading about and watching videos on intramuscular self-injection.I bought a bottle of alcohol and cleaning swabs, and I got a few safety buddies ready on Skype to call the emergency services if I stopped responding due to, god forbid, an anaphylactic shock - should you be wondering that`s what happens in the billion-to-one possibility that you`re allergic to the drug.

The process was quite simple:
- Clean the area with an alcohol doused swab using circular motions going outwards.
- Prepare the needle (which in this case meant connect the part with the drug in it to the part with the needle on it).
- Push the end of the syringe until a drop of liquid forms on the end of the needle (this is to get the air out of the syringe).
- Grab hold of the top of your thigh muscle - the outer upper part about 2 thirds of the way up from your knee.
- Slowly insert the needle until it`s about an inch and a half deep (no, it doesn`t hurt at all).
- Pull on the plunger of the syringe a little to ensure no blood comes out - this is to make sure you didn`t hit a vein, which in this case would be bad and would require a complete restart with a new syringe.
- Finally, push down on the plunger until all the vaccine has entered the muscle, take out the syringe, and cover the spot with a swab to prevent bleeding.

Nevertheless, my heart was racing when I actually did it. In fact after doing the first one in my left thigh, I almost thought for a moment I was having a reaction just because my heart was beating so fast. But of course this was nothing more than nerves, and it subsided as I relaxed. The second one was almost routine.

And well, that was that. It`s now been almost 48 hours since I did all that and I`m hastily referring to it as a successful self-vaccination! Yeah! Hardcore! Screw the establishment! Or something! And all that bollocks!

Catch ya on the flip-side folks!

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