Chapter 14: You Must Be This Vaccinated…..

Filed under: @ 8:38 am

I don’t know why it never occurred to me that people with transplanted organs need to be immunosuppressed life long. Somehow, despite my scientific training, I had it in mind that after the transplanted organ had been in-situ in the recipient for enough time, the recipient’s system would replace the cells that wear out in the transplanted organ making the transplant “self” after a certain amount of time.
But that’s not an accurate vision.
If worn out or dead organ cells could be replaced by a person’s own new tissue there wouldn’t be the need for transplants that there is.

So for the rest of Andrew’s life he’ll have a piece of Curt inside him and his immune system will be trying to remove it.

It’s made me more than a little anxious being that I work with the general public.

I don’t like getting vaccinated. My mother tells me that when I got my first measles vaccine at the age of 2 or so I spiked an enormous fever and was miserable for 2 or 3 days. It was that reaction, and the fact that the Bellevue school district sent out a notice prior to the beginning of the school year in 1982 or so indicating that kids vaccinated for measles prior to 1971 would need a booster, that made Mother grab me by the scruff of the neck and haul me off to the doctor to get a booster that summer. I resented the fuck out of it at the time, even though I didn’t spike an enormous fever, and I resented it with a great deal more vigor when the same notice came out the next summer. Protest as I might that I’d gotten a measles booster the previous summer, Mother didn’t remember and somehow (thus adding to the persistent resentment nearly 40 years later) the previous year’s booster hadn’t been noted in my medical record. So I got a measles booster for the second summer in a row.
Beyond that persistent resentment, I’m allergic to horses. Granted that allergy only pertains to tetanus vaccines (the genesis of tetanus vaccines is horse serum), but that little fact makes tetanus vaccines a trial for me. My arm swells up and aches for 3 or 4 days and I run a low grade fever which leaves me achy, listless, and snappish.
Besides, says my previous self, I’ve HAD all the childhood diseases. That’s not entirely true. I had scarlet fever, then mumps and chicken pox in quick succession. And I’m not afraid of the flu.

Except now I am.
I got my first flu shot a little over a year ago. I was cranky about it but resigned. When my MD checked my vaccine titers this spring and found me wanting (HOW?!) in antibody levels to measles, I was a little more cranky. Especially when I realized a month later that the sore knot in my left tricep was residual inflammation from the measles vaccine.
I got my second ever flu shot about a month ago. Followed, probably too quickly, by my first ever shingles vaccine about two weeks ago. I am made persistently resentful by the fact that my left tricep and deltoid will probably continue to be achy just in time for me to get the booster for the shingles vaccine.

I am emphatically pro-vaccine. Vaccines have been safe and effective at preventing disease since the 1600s. I am also maniacally frustrated by those anti-scientific twee folk who claim that vaccines are the root of all evil when really the root of all evil is a slavish repetition of ‘facts’ that aren’t substantiated by anything or anyone with any reason.

But it doesn’t mean that I like getting them!

That said, vaccines and people’s vaccine status, have become high priority in my life. Andrew’s company employs anti-vaxxers. And because vaccines are part of a person’s medical information, an employer can’t really ask whether or not their employees, or their employees’ children, have been vaccinated.
So Andrew is restricted in which of his company’s employees he can interact with personally. This is fine, actually, since the folks that he needs to interact with the most are mostly the ones he’s known the longest and who are friendly enough with him to reveal their vaccination status. It’s fortunate, too, that Andrew’s job has mutated over the years to the point where he does’t actually need to be physically present at the company offices terribly regularly. Also, technology. A lot of the in-person stuff can be done via Skype or some other computer/video assisted tech.

Me, however… Oy. I’m familiar enough with my staff, and we’re a small enough organization, that I know my co-workers have been vaccinated. Staff is safe. Clients are another matter. That said, since we see a lot of animals to administer vaccines I suspect it’s probably rather rare to for their owners to be anti-vaxxers.
I don’t ask, of course. But I do wash my hands and use hand sanitizer before I leave work.

It makes interacting with the outside world a little anxious. When Meg was here in October we took her to Vashon island to see the Betty MacDonald farm (from which we were promptly slung out, but that’s another story) and since the Vashon school district has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state I was more than a little concerned just about being there.
Similarly Lopez island. Andrew and I spent some time in the San Juans as part of our honeymoon and we’ve wanted to go back, but since Lopez has the lowest vaccination rate in the state I don’t think we’re going to be repeating that trip.

Immunosuppression isn’t going to keep us from traveling, but it’s definitely going to influence our choices of destination.

One Response to “Chapter 14: You Must Be This Vaccinated…..”

  1. Val Says:


    I had *no idea* all this was going on! Imagine my surprise when I idly decided to check out what was going on at uncle-andrew.net while waiting for a meeting to start up…

    So sorry you and Andrew have been going through all this, but I am very glad that after some hiccups, everything has worked out and Andrew is on the mend. Holy crap, that’s a lot of, well, crap to fly at y’all all at once. It sounds like you have sailed through it all with your typical inwardly freaking out/outwardly serene aplomb.

    My sister had a liver transplant maybe ten years ago, and I can report that after everything stabilizes, the drug regimen and constant! vigilance! can be reduced. Yeah, you’ve got to be careful with exposure to illness etc. but my sister (an RN no less…) is rather cavalier about it and has done fine.

    I am happy to report that about a year ago after I made a good attempt to cut the tip of my index finger off while making zoodles for dinner, I learned that I am not as sensitive to tetanus shots as I once was. They’re now bundled with some other bunch of goodly vaccines (whooping cough? diptheria? dunno…) and maybe there’s some synergy or maybe the serum is improved, but I didn’t get the aching knot, general malaise, “OMG, my arm is going to fall off!” feeling like I had the prior time I had a tetanus shot some mumblemumblemumble too long ago. But a horse is a horse is a horse, of course, so maybe you won’t have that same experience.

    Spring is around the corner (difficult to say, since as I type this it is all snowy outside) and you’ll have your garden to find your peace in and get your zen back on. You’ll have to find just that right shade of pink to match Andrew’s post-transplant skin tone!

    All my best to you and Andrew, I’m glad I read the saga from the ending on back, so I knew everything turned out great! I’m A-OK with spoilers like that. I wish you and yours a joyous 2020.

    Val (and Alan)

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