Eight years ago I traveled to India. As part of the trip preparations, I was required to get a series of vaccinations – which ultimately involved me receiving five different injections at one office visit. Let me say that again: five different injections at one office visit. When the nurse told me what needed to happen, I’ll admit that my jaw dropped. I’m actually fine with needle sticks (except in my mouth – but that’s a whole other story for a different time…); what I was anxious about was the dull ache that follows a vaccination. After nearly every shot I receive, my limb aches for 24-48 hours afterwards. Aches. So when I learned that I would have to get five shots in my poor scrawny arms, I sincerely wondered how I would be able to drive home that night.
When I expressed my concerns to the nurse responsible for administering the injections, she nodded her head compassionately. She agreed that my twiggy arms would probably be pretty stressed by the multi-vaccination process; after thinking for a second, she said, “Hmm… I wonder… I bet we could administer the vaccinations in your legs. If you wanted to. That way the medicine would be distributed through your muscles a lot faster – since you walk more than you do pushups – which would most likely minimize your post-injection soreness…” Her voice trailed off, her mind continuing to process the possibility. “I mean, when we administer vaccinations to babies, we stick them in their legs; so I don’t know why we couldn’t do the same with you…” The nurse seemed to be talking herself through the scenario as much as she was conveying information to me. Her logic made sense in my mind; with no hesitation I told her, “Stick me in the legs!” That was the only nudge she needed. She nodded her head as she prepped the syringes, I dropped my pants, and a minute later my legs got the appropriate doses of medicine. (Three shots in my right thigh, two shots in my left.)
While I did experience soreness later that day/evening, it was minimal compared to the sustained ache I usually felt whenever I received an injection in my arm. The next morning, my legs were a little tender, but on the whole not terrible. I was really impressed by how well the injection-in-the-leg procedure worked! I felt like the nurse had just shared a secret insight with me – and I deeply appreciated the new knowledge.
From that day on, every time I have had to receive a shot of some kind (tetanus, influenza, etc.), I have requested that the individual responsible for delivering the immunization stick me in the leg. I have received a few questionable looks, but no provider has ever refused to comply with the request – and every shot I have received using that method has been much less traumatic than the traditional in-the-arm route.
I am pretty confident that the nurse from eight years ago has long forgotten me, my situation, and our conversation. But I still remember her. While I don’t know her name, and while the image of her face is fuzzy in my mind’s eye, I absolutely remember her compassion, her thoughtful consideration of my ‘plight’, and her willingness to seek a solution that would address my concerns. Now, every time I get a shot in the leg, I think about her. I remember her kindness. I appreciate her empathy. I value the ‘extra’ few minutes she spent problem-solving with me. I feel grateful for her. And I smile.
Always share as much kindness, generosity, and love as you are able; you just never know what tiny action you take that may have a lasting impact on another person.