Piqûre de rappel

Somehow I manage to get through the year without a trip to the doctor’s office. Then it’s time for a booster shot. And suddenly it seems I have a check-up or an appointment of some kind for several weeks running.

Keeping a body in good health is like a car, especially us older models: you keep it fueled, check the air, go lightly on the brakes, but every now and then you have to do the maintenance. Seems I’m in for a full oil change at the moment.

Maybe because he doesn’t see me so often, my GP tends to pull out the big guns whenever I go in with a minor complaint. This time it was nagging lower back pain that had started in the summer. He was off for a month’s holidays when it started, so by the time I got an appointment, it was almost better. Still, better safe than sorry. I got sent for blood work, urine analysis, x-ray and – okay, why not save time and get it now? – an MRI.

I also got a few prescriptions for minor ailments, and when I go back with my results next week, I’ll probably get a flu shot. Seems this year’s bug is looking like a humdinger, and although the medical community agrees the vaccine is a bit of a crap shoot, as they can only guess at its actual makeup, worst case is you only get 35% sick. I’ll take it.

The anti-vaxxer movement is starting to gain momentum France. I remember questioning the need for my kids to get so many shots when I first arrived. But immunization is obligatory here, and if you want your children to attend school you have to go with it. After a bit of fact-checking, I decided to put my faith with science.

Now France’s new government is boosting the number of ‘obligatory’ children’s vaccines to 11: polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis b, influenza, meningitis and pneumococcal disease. Most of these were recommended anyway but the difference is that now they will be mandatory, and therefore, I assume, reimbursed. I get that people are concerned, and if I had young children would probably question the need for them too.

But the return of diseases like measles that were virtually eradicated in France is a legitimate public health concern for both young and old. Even though we oldsters survived many of them — in my case, measles, mumps and chicken pox. But hey, I also grew up a cloud of cigarette smoke.

This week I had an appointment for the dreaded MRI. You have to go to the hospital for this, and as I arrive I can’t help but notice that they always have a funeral parlour just across the street. Isn’t that a little pessimistic? Not to mention insensitive?

I’ve had MRI’s before, and figured this time would be a picnic as it was only for my lower back. Surely, given the fact that I always tick ‘claustrophobic’ on the questionnaire, they’d let me have my head sticking out of the tunnel? No such luck. The nurse pointed out that my head was almost at the end, and handed me a headset to block out the noise of the machine. The screech of obnoxious commercial radio combined with the strange magnetic noises of the imaging created a cacophony that made the whole experience even more unpleasant. But after a few brief moments of panic, the 15 minutes only felt like 30.

So far so good, although I’ll only get all the results back in a few days.

Hopefully now I’ll be good for another year.

Will you be getting a flu shot? Or avoiding the doctor like the plague?