Flu shots and other cures

Ed Smith
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I do not feel at all well. I have been taking this flu shot for more years than I care to remember, or anyone else cares to remember for me. I have never had a reaction to it. I’ve heard other people talking about how they’ve been sick for days, and others have convinced me that they actually got the flu as a result of taking the shot.

That’s not hard to believe, because what you’re getting in that shot is a small dose of actual flu designed to activate the antibodies that attack the flu virus once you get it for real. How’s that for an expert opinion on the how and why of flu shots?

As I was saying, I never get a reaction to the flu shot, and even if I did, I would take it anyway. I think it’s that important, especially if your immune system is compromised in any way. I could go into an explanation of that, too, but I don’t think I have room enough in this column for that.

However, this particular time may be somewhat different for me. For one thing, the needle wasn’t insinuated into my yielding flesh (how’s that for a definition of an inoculation! I’m on a roll here) by the same community health nurse who always does it. I have total faith in her and that she knows what she’s doing.

It seems to me that someone must have serious doubts about this woman’s abilities. I tried to investigate the details of her training, but all I got out of her was that she had a year-old baby. Lovely lady, though.

Likewise, the medical student wasn’t too forthcoming. She did say she was from Ottawa, but given the news coming out of there these days, that little fact doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Who knows how close she is to Stephen Harper, and what may have rubbed off on her from him? She may have stood next to him in an elevator, or passed by him in the street.

So, even though this new person administered the shot as painlessly as the other, and also had medical backup with her, I will not rest comfortably until the actual flu season is over, the grandkids who came to visit this weekend are gone home again and my promise to a friend to help out with a pre-Christmas do has been carried out. When all that is accomplished, then I can get comfortably sick. But I won’t, not until after — or during.

Haven’t heard much about killer viruses so far this year carried by everything from blue jays to Skittles and threatening to wipe us all out by Dec. 21. Oh, sorry. That was the Maya and their predictions for our demise last Christmas. However, we shouldn’t get too smug about the Maya having missed us completely. It may be that their date was a bit premature, and they were off by just a year.

Forgetting a future that may be iffy or not, my mind wanders back to a time that was very real, at least in memory. Before I was born there were plagues and pandemics that more than once threatened the population of the Earth, and I’m not talking about federal elections. After the last war, there was an epidemic of influenza that killed tens of millions of people. There were killer diseases such as diphtheria and tuberculosis that often ran rampant through whole families and communities.

But not to worry. By the time I came along our parents had the cure for every parasite and virus that they knew anything about, and a few they didn’t. These remedies usually weren’t disease specific, but designed to kill everything in their path, thus weaving a broad swath of destruction to all germs of any variety that happened to be in their way.

Some of these remedies had other applications; in a low, such as a cure for extreme sobriety. One of the best-known and lovingly sought after was BeefIron Wine.

How much of that concoction was beef, how much iron and how much wine was anybody’s guess. Perhaps the iron came from certain beef such as bulls or wild game. It may be that the wine was a fortification added after to make the mixture palatable — and a little more potent.

It may have been that the main ingredient was raw alcohol. If someone still has a bottle and can read the contents, I’d be interested in knowing what they were. We always had a bottle on our shelves, and my father was a minister.

The most difficult to swallow was Friars Balsam. One small drop would be added to a teaspoonful of sugar. Even then it felt like you were swallowing pure acid. I believe that the state of Texas used it to execute criminals instead of cyanide.

The most onerous of all these various “remedies” was a little blue bottle which came from Gerald S. Doyle and contained cod liver oil, straight from a puncheon tub.

It tasted like rotten cod liver. But every innocent little child in Newfoundland was required to drink a bottle of this at least once a year because it was believed it would guard against a host of illnesses. No one knew whether or not that was true because most of the bottles were smashed against the rocks on our way home from school from where it was distributed.

There was more, of course, but we also imbibed Haig Ale in our adolescent years, took in more salt than Windsor produces these days, and smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style. Somehow, it must have all balanced out.

For most of us.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in

Springdale.  His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Texas, Newfoundland Springdale

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