A Flu Shot, Wine, and a Little Compassion, Please

We are not really a flu shot sort of family. But this year, the constant facebook posts telling of friends falling horribly ill, along with the incessant news drumbeat about H3N3, finally scared me. Yesterday, I took the plunge (no pun intended) and succumbed.

After going to three different pharmacies, I ended up at a CVS where I was very well cared for by the pharmacy manager. Got the newfangled, 90% smaller needle, shot, which I was assured might hurt a little more at the moment, but wouldn't provoke a sore arm or swelling. (The fluzone intradermal.) It did hurt a little, and, other than a little itchiness last night, I had no reaction at all. I also talked my mom into getting her shot, the long needle one for her, and she reported no pain and no reaction either .

Today, after school, I took Chloe back to the same CVS.

It was horrible.

My girl didn't want to have the shot all all, but was willing to go along on my advice, despite her anxiety and nerves. I kept assuring her that it would only be uncomfortable for a few seconds and then it would be over. That the worrying about it would be much worse than the actuality. Like ear piercing.

They were busy. The nice manager who helped my mom and I wasn't there. I told the girl at the counter that we wanted the flu shot with the short needle, that I knew insurance wouldn't cover it, but that's the one I wanted because I'd had it. All fine.

Then we waited. And waited.

Finally, I poked my head around the counter and asked how long it would be, and let them know that Chloe was very nervous and we just really wanted to get it over with. Not so politely, they told me they were busy and would get to it when they could.

About ten minutes later, we finally paid, and the counter girl assured me that Barbara would be right out and that we were in good hands with her.

Eventually, Barbara walked over with her flu shot tray and told Chloe that the vaccination wouldn't be fully functional for two weeks, to keep washing her hands and stay away from sick people, and to relax her arm. Then she pulled out a syringe with a LONG needle. I barely had time to register it, and think, uh, that doesn't look like it's supposed to, when Barbara jabbed it, hard, into Chloe's upper arm. My girl's eyes flooded with tears, and she took a deep breath and looked at me with a bit of panic when the medicine went in.

When the needle came out, a big drop of blood welled up, and Chloe's arm turned bright red.

Knowing the answer in my gut, I asked, "Was that the short needle?"

It wasn't. They didn't care. I was told that she was given the "normal one." Clearly a miscommunication between the two women working there had occurred.

Now, torn between tearing their heads off and keeping calm so that I didn't upset Chloe any more than she already was, I tried to navigate the situation and get them to at least run my insurance so that I didn't have to pay out of pocket for something I didn't receive. They proceeded to tell me that "Insurance doesn't cover the short needle shot." And that "The short needle one hurts more and provokes more of a reaction." AAARRRGH.

Did CVS turn into the Twilight Zone without someone telling me?

At this point it's all I can do to hold back my own tears. It's the worst feeling in the world when you know you have failed to protect your child, and Chloe was still upset, teary eyed, and with a sore arm already as well.

An apology would have helped immensely.

Instead, I was told that they were "Sorry I had been inconvenienced." And that she had "told your daughter to keep her arm relaxed, but she didn't, she tensed, and that's why it hurt." With Chloe standing right there, she blamed the problem on her, and not in a kind tone of voice either.

Inconvenienced? You gave my kid the wrong damn shot. You jabbed it into her arm, with no finesse or care. You managed to scare her and upset her and make what should have been a no-big-deal kind of thing into a traumatic experience.

More tears in the car, both of ours, a stop for Ibuprofen at a different drug store because neither of us could stomach giving CVS any of our money, and then I dropped off a still teary girl at her acting class at Studio 24.

Lovely Jackie put her arm around Chloe and led her back to class. We all knew getting her mind off things would be the best thing to do.

After cleaning up my desk at work, I drove to Café Bernado and ordered some dinner and a glass of wine. They were out of wine glasses. I so did not care.

NowThisLife.com - Cafe Bernardo - Wine

Class over, wine enjoyed, we are both just fine. Chloe had a wonderful time with Cody and the kids, and came out laughing and chattering. Ron went to Spaghetti Factory and had Chloe's favorite pasta with mizithra cheese waiting for her when we got home, and a so cute wrapped Barbie present, and cupcakes, too. Daddy of the year.

It's over, and everything is fine.

Except, it isn't. Because those two women, who could have done so much to make the experience a good one, instead used their power in the exact opposite way.

It's a real shame. Each of us, no matter what our jobs, have a tremendous effect on other people, just by the way we choose to act. I wish I could go back to that moment when the big needle came out and yell "Stop!" But I can't.

What I can do though, is remember this. Remember it the next time someone calls on the phone at work and I'm impatient to get to my "real work." Remember to be kind in each encounter. Remember that I never know how much someone might need a smile, or a little moment of compassion. Remember to say, genuinely, "I am sorry" when I am.

Little things, yes. Big things, too. They matter.

P.S. After coming home and researching this, CVS never should have offered the intradermal, short needle, vaccine to my daughter. The US Food and Drug administration has approved it only for adults 18-64. Lovely.


  1. Chandra - I am not big on the flu shot either. But my kids kept getting sick and everyone around us seemed to be even worse off...so I decided my kids should just get the shot. Also, my doctor told me they were running out of it. Well, they were out of single dose shot and my kids had to get the two shot infant dose! They were not happy campers for sure. I finally talked them into getting the shot and then they had to get "TWO" shots - luckily for me the Kaiser nurses were super quick. Hoping if they get the flu again its just mild. Abigail is starting up the Studio 24 Pre-teen class again but on Thursdays this time - Wednesdays just don't work for us. She would of liked to meet Chloe :)

  2. Awww :( What happened to the FluMist option?! I'm sorry your experience was so awful! It feels like just yesterday that I was in a similar parenting moment with Olivia. Three shots in her legs and holding her down as she wailed. It felt wrong to be part of the cause of her pain. Thank goodness it goes quickly in the end! I'm so glad Chloe had something fun (and you did too!) to take her mind off of it all. Yay, Studio 24 :)

  3. I hope you call CVS and talk to the pharmacy manager - it could help keep another child from having a similar experience. When my daughter was little, she had a very bad infection and needed to get two shots, one in each side of her bum, with a "very thick" serum that required a "big" needle. I had to hold her and tell her we were playing "monkey legs" (a game we played where she wrapped her legs around me) while they plunged each needle in and slowly - ever so slowly - injected the medicine. Tears started flowing right there for both of us, and I felt like a horrible mother. But, as mothers, we both did the right thing by protecting our daughters from something more harmful than the pain of those shots. On days like those, we just have to put on our warrior mom outfit until we can have that glass of wine.

    1. Ron called and read them the riot act, and they called me an apologized. Hopefully some of the message got through for the future. I love the warrior mom image. I'm going to hold on to that one!

  4. I hate CVS as it is (they have carpeting, which I think is weird and if that makes me weird, I'm ok with that). I would definitely call and talk to the manager. It's bad enough when a patient has anxiety over a procedure, but for the healthcare workers to make it worse? That's unacceptable.

    1. Absolutely agree with you on the carpet. When we first walked in, Chloe commented that this did not look like a good place to get a flu shot, just because it was so icky looking. And, damn if she wasn't completely correct! We've had such wonderful experiences with most all of the healthcare providers over the years; I think that's why this was such a shock.

  5. Ugh! We had a hard time with shots this year too and I don't normally get them. Luckily the people who administered ours was pretty quick, but I swear it took my kids 2 full days to recuperate with sore arms. Next time we'll go on a weekend.

    1. At least none of us will be getting H3N3...and everyone can raise their arms again!


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