Swine Flu, MS and Vaccines
Dec 15 12:32
“I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”
— T.S. Eliot, in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Obviously I haven’t yet actually died from swine flu, although a few times I have begged God to just kill me. A bit melodramatic, to be sure. But now that I think I truly am finally recovering, I feel a kinship with Lazarus.
The flu means fever, and fevers with MS are terrifying. I’ve been through enough to have a plan: Basically, I don’t let ibuprofen out of my system and if I’m alone, I have someone call at two-hour intervals in case I fall asleep and miss a dose. A mild fever makes my limbs feel heavy and more spastic, and blurs my eyes. A bad fever paralyzes my left hand, left leg, renders both eyes unusable, locks up my bladder and so on. Bad fevers are the enemy.
It’s simple, some say, just get vaccinated. But those of us with serious auto-immune conditions know that not even vaccines are simple anymore. First, I’ve avoided flu vaccines since I don’t want my immune system to be too strong. We all have our pet theories about our disabilities, and I’m no different. Over the years I’ve noticed that when my MS acts up, my allergies do, too, but I’m immune to whatever colds or other viruses others come down with. And when my MS is in remission, which it is right now, then I’m as vulnerable as everyone else.
“I’m afraid to take the vaccine, because I might go blind,” I said, explaining my theory to my daughter, who came home to have her first baby and live with us while her husband’s off fighting the war in Afghanistan.
“Well, that’s selfish,” she replied.
So to please her, I called my doctor, my pharmacist and even the state health department for a swine flu shot, but none were available in Central Pennsylvania. Then there were some live vaccines for school kids, but no one else. By the time dead-virus vaccines hit town, it was too late, I was already coping with the sensation of being waterboarded — really, it’s been disgusting.
I’ve learned a lot this flu season. Most importantly, I finally did some real research on MS and vaccines. It turns out my theory isn’t as wacky as I thought it was: Live-virus vaccines are dangerous for us. But dead-virus vaccines are generally considered safe, unless we are in the middle of an active relapse. I’m a convert. From now on, I’ll get any and every dead-virus flu vaccination that’s available to me, if I’m in remission.
One other thing: I didn’t believe the hype about swine flu, figuring that hey, it’s just the flu, only more people getting it. Well, it’s not just the flu. This has lasted longer and been more uncomfortable than any flu I’ve had in my life. The only sickness more uncomfortable, and that only by a hair, was actual pneumonia. So please, if you have MS and are in remission, go get the vaccine.
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