I followed him through the entrance to Willow Park church. From behind he stood tall and broad as a refrigerator capped by a bowling ball. I’d come for my H1N1 and seasonal flu shots and had some anxiety about the fallout: my wife had spent a day and a half recovering from the double barrelled bursts she’d received before me.
At the registration table, I stood beside my giant, looked up and saw a lovely smile emerge from a face that bore scars from burns he must have suffered long ago. He moved to one of the many inoculation stations and then I heard it…the plaintiff cry of a child pierced by a needle; in fact, I noticed dozens of children: innocent little lambs, hand in hand with mom or dad, unaware of what was to befall them.
Soon it was my turn and I confess that I am no braver than the pleading children that I heard desperately protesting while a parent held them firmly to facilitate the nurse’s grim task. When I sat down I jokingly said that I wished my wife were here to hold my hand. The nurse looked over at her colleague and said, “Alice’ll hold your hand…” and as she nodded I diplomatically declined.
My nurse was a virtuoso; I didn’t feel a thing! I moved to another chair for the required anaphylaxis monitoring and listened to the chorus of wailing children. One in particular captured my attention: a little boy with a stentorian voice now pleading, now shouting angrily, struggling against a tide of arms that wrestled him in place for the well meaning insult.
As I listened and watched, memories surged within me of a young lad, fifty or more years ago, undergoing a needed blood test; terrified of the firm grip of a rubber tourniquet, and what appeared to be a thick, giant, stainless steel needle entering his scrawny arm. It hurt like hell! And thereafter I have cringed at the approaching steps of the well meaning phlebotomist.
I knew exactly what those kids in the hall were suffering, and I wondered about my friendly giant: had he too, throughout his pained convalescence, suffered the repeated, but gracious, indignities of the needle?
photo: Andrew Barr – National Post