Saturday, November 14, 2009
Saturday Afternoon in East Williamsburg: H1N1 Vaccination Clinic at P.S. 196
This afternoon we went over to P.S. 196 on Bushwick Avenue to get our H1N1 vaccination.
After last week's low turnout, the city schools' weekend swine flu shot clinics were opened not just to pregnant women, kids and young adults up to age 24.
Those of us ages 25 through 64 who have underlying health problems — such as diabetes, asthma or chronic heart and lung conditions — and caretakers of infants less than 6 months old are now eligible for the free vaccinations.
We haven't had an asthma attack in a (real) long time, but the one year in recent years when we couldn't get a seasonal flu shot — 2004, when there was a vaccine shortage in Florida and nationwide — we got the flu, then pneumonia, coming as close to dying as we'd like to be in a while.
The numerous people involved in the P.S. 196 vaccination clinic impressed us with their efficiency, dedication, helpfulness, and friendliness.
It was literally a painless experience, and it didn't take long. Lots of nice folks were involved, and the whole operation was being pulled off with military precision.
When we walked in the lobby, someone immediately talked to us and gave us forms to fill out, explaining just what needed to be done.
We were given a number (266) and sent to another big room - a gym? - to fill out the forms, which asked the questions you'd expect. A worker at the door gave us pens when we came in and took them when we left.
When finished with the forms, we walked across the hall to give our forms to the medical evaluation unit, who checked out our checks on the little boxes. They found we checked one form by mistake; no, we were actually were not pregnant.
They didn't ask us for proof of asthma - it actually seemed that there were very few people there trying to get the shots - and we were immediately sent over to the dispensing room, down steps past signs saying "Watch the steps" (they were definitely needed).
People held up green circular signs to indicate that we should come there.
We sort of had two tables of three vaccine-givers really interested in us. A people-pleaser, it took us a while to pick.
One of the vaccinators, some of whom were wearing plastic demi-gowns, helped us with our forms and we took thess pic of the tables in front of and behind us as she prepared our shot.
We took off our sweater, rolled up the sleeve of our Borough of Manhattan College T-shirt (we'd taught "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin and "The Things They Carried" by our 1977 Bread Loaf manuscript reader Tim O'Brien at a 9-to-noon BMCC class on the Brooklyn College campus this morning), and felt nothing as we got the shot.
After the band-aid was put on, we felt a little soreness at the injection site as we always do - we got our seasonal flu shot at the Walgreens on First Avenue in Stuyvesant Town in late September - but it soon passed and we felt ready to go.
But they always want us, and everyone else, to hang out for 15 minutes in case of some weird reaction, which we've never seen anyone get. To us, people afraid of the H1N1 vaccination are morons.
But we and our fellow over-24 post-vaccination waiters are glad there are so many stupid people in New York that we were able to get our vaccines for free.
This sign, which said the shots were limited to young people, presumably had been displayed last week but we found it discarded in a corner.
We think we may have had the H1N1 flu in late April, on the weekend the whole city was panicking about it. Feeling terrible on Friday, we thought it was tree-blooming-time allergies and taught our night BMCC class on the BC campus, then came back for two classes on Saturday. As we went for lunch at Luigi's pizzeria on Hillel Place, we realized we were really, really sick and kept our afternoon class only 40 minutes.
When we got home, we had 101.5° fever, and we usually run very low temperatures. It was some kind of flu and we felt awful that day and the next and then Sunday night our fever broke, we felt okay on Monday and even taught our Professional Writing for Design Students class that night at the fabulous Fashion Institute of Technology.
Anyway, we now had the above proof that we were vaccinated against H1N1 and we can't spread it to our students at four colleges, many of whom are of the at-age risk in their teens. If we did have the swine flu in April, it was probably mild because we got H1N1 in 1957 ("Asian flu") when we were six and H1N1 again on New Year's Eve 1968/1969 ("Hong Kong flu") when we were seventeen.
Our pediatrician from when we were born till when he retired when we turned eighteen was Dr. Jacob L. Stein, who lived near us, on Ryder Street in Marine Park, but whose office was at Turner Towers at 135 Eastern Parkway across from the Brooklyn Museum. He gave us all our shots, including the polio shot when it came out, and many boosters.
When we were 16 and hypochondriacal, we got a shot on Saturday morning and soon after our arm hurt a lot and we felt it swelling up. By that afternoon, it was really bad and since our family wasn't home, we took the B41 bus up Flatbush Avenue to see Dr. Stein, telling him it was an emergency.
He took our temperature, which was normal, and couldn't find anything odd about our arm. We insisted it was all swollen and even hard, and showed him the spot. He stared at us, frowning. "You're just flexing your triceps muscle," he said drily. We hadn't known we'd had one.
We hung around our allotted fifteen minutes. A nice guard said nobody was watching the clocks, but people seemed to take the waiting time seriously.
As we exited at Scholes Street into the rain and headed for the Montrose Street stop of the L train for our three-stop ride back to Lorimer Street, we felt we had just had the privilege of seeing the best of New York City and New Yorkers, coming together in a friendly and extremely efficient manner in a time of crisis. Actually, the city seems to be doing okay with swine flu so far, but the great weekend vaccination clinics are a big, big help.
The P.S. 196 clinic will also be open tomorrow, Sunday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and you can find out how to get an H1N1 shot here. Next weekend the Brooklyn weekend clinic will be around the corner from our 1960s orthodontist at Cunningham Junior High on East 17th Street between Avenue S and Avenue T. We're grateful to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for making these free clinics available.