Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Trip to a 3rd World Country (a.k.a. the Local Health Department)

South Carolina is rolling out the first of the H1N1 vaccines across the state. We received a letter at the kids' daycare that because they are in the high risk category, they are eligible to receive the vaccine at one of several free clinics - the first of which was last Thursday. My first reaction to the letter was, we'll wait - I'm not rushing out to get the vaccine - there's going to be a million people there (since the letter went out to all day cares in the City of Columbia) and I don't want to deal with all that mess.

So on Thursday when I'm in the process of picking up the kids, I run into one of A's classmates and his mom (who is expecting.) She tells me she's thinking of taking her son to the clinic - and asked if we were going. I hesitated. I started to say 'no' then I started to overhear a lot of other parents around us talking about taking their kids over there.

I debated. I hmmmmd. I hahhhhhed. Jack had just been fed. I had some 'emergency' snacks in the car should this take a while, and besides, I convinced myself, if they distributed this letter to every.single.daycare in Columbia, surely they had a system in place to get everyone in and out in the allotted 5-7 pm window.

And, I started stressing out that what if they ran out, what if this ended up being the only clinic, you know - what if - it'll get you every time.

So, I called Deonne and told him we were heading over there. He kind of laughed at me. Wished me good luck.

We arrived at the health department - diaper bag, check. Bottle of water (one), check. Bags of snacks (three), check. Load the kids up - head on in.

James thought the entrance to the building looked similar to the coliseum where we see kids events. For some reason he thought we were going to see Elmo. I hated to burst his little bubble.

They had nurses stations set up - in the lobby. Not a great place - because as you line up to check in - you get to see/hear children screaming at the top of their lungs while their parents pin their arms and legs down to get the shot. My kids (who are good shot-takers) suddenly are scared.


But we pass that, check in, and begin the wait.

Someone had the brilliant idea that they'd line up this enormous amount of people by snaking them through the halls of the building. I suppose they thought they'd keep us happy - but the air conditioning couldn't keep up with that many people. It was hot. And muggy.

The line was ridiculous. Hundreds of families. With small children. Working families (their kids are in daycare, right?) who came to the clinic right after work - many with no snacks or drinks or anything to keep the kids entertained. And these are small daycare-age children - as in - under the age of five.

Kids were screaming in stereo - at different times up and down the line of people. It was awful. Poor little things - they just couldn't understand why their parents were making them stand there, for hours, with nothing to do in a cramped, hot, muggy place. (And who wanted to tell them what the result was at the end....)

I called Deonne around the time he was leaving work - he agreed to head over to help out. The kids did remarkably well - I was so proud of them. Thankfully one of Anna's classmates and his family were about 10 people ahead of us - so she and James took turns "visiting" them.

When we finally got up to the head of the line for our turn for a shot (after being there for two hours) we were told we could all get the vaccine (Deonne and I included) because Jack is right at six months. (He was too young to get his shot.) The nurse did tell us we weren't technically "high risk" but she couldn't tell us "no" because of Jack's age.

I told her we all wanted it - and didn't feel guilty at all.

And so, after an evening spent in the third world country that was the hot, humid, stinky, sweaty, full of screaming children hallway rat-maze of the Richland County Health Department, we've all been vaccinated.

Now we get to go back in four weeks for the kids' booster.

Repeat fun....

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