Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Just Want a 'Flu Shot

Every year around this time my ears perk up and I'm ever alert for when the 'flu vaccine will be available, and where.  About 10 years ago, when the middlest Thing was no more than two, he got a nasty case of influenza—barely controlled fever, cough, and fatigue—that lasted for 10 days, and made us decide that since there was a preventative out there, it seemed to make sense to take advantage of it.

I get anxious about this kind of thing, at this time of year.  Not only are we going to be doing a lot of travelling, but the kids, especially, are surrounded at school by many other kids who also travel.  In my opinion, if you're exposed to that many other people, who in turn are exposed to many other people, you're exposed to that many other viruses.  Protect the herd and everyone stays healthy.

Last year it was easy.  The five of us showed up at the Mesaimeer Vaccination Clinic on a Wednesday afternoon in November, presented our national health cards, and told the receptionist we wanted the influenza vaccine.  We were immediately called into a little room where the nurse was so efficient that she didn't even get us to sit down...let alone change her gloves between us.  Five jabs, out the door.  Easy peasy.

So this year, I tried to find some information about when the clinic would be offering shots.  Eventually, I found out that it is available right now, but only to Muslims who may be travelling to Mecca over the Eid al-Adha break.  Which I get.  I understand that they would want to offer this free vaccine to their own citizens first, and then expats.  But isn't a matter of public health really a matter of, well...keeping the entire public healthy?

Anyway, it was clear that if I wanted this done I was going to have to make other arrangements.  I found out that for 100QR we could have our shots done at the hospital.  I spent thirty minutes on the phone making separate appointments (which is a whole other post in itself) for myself and the kids, specifically telling the receptionist that we wanted the 'flu shot.

Arriving five minutes early for my 1:00 pm appointment, I made my way to the department desk.  Typically Doha, there was no line, just people crowded around the breadth of the desk.  When the ubiquitous Large-Arab-Guy-Who-Has-No-Concept-of-Queuing-Theory walked in and stood in front of me, I deftly slid my foot in front of him, angling my elbow to secure my position.  I figure it's all about taking advantage of teaching moments with these guys.

When my turn came, the young man behind the desk told me I had to go back out to the Main Desk (there's a Main desk for the Main desk?) to register.  "Come back when you're done," he told me.

Another desk, another non-line, another queue-butting crowd.  Ten minutes later I successfully registered for my appointment, and she told me, pointing in the direction of Main Desk #2 (or would that be #1?), "You can go and tell them you're here."  Trust me, he already knows.

I was eventually called by a child-sized nurse who brought me into a room to check my weight and height.  "But I just want a 'flu shot," I said to her.  "Yes, madame, but the doctor wants."  Evidently, the doctor also wanted my temperature and blood pressure, the latter for which I sat through five attempts of the automatic cuff inflating incorrectly.

"Can't you do this manually?" I asked.  Can you even do it automatically?

Finally she had all my vitals, and I was led in to see Dr. B., a friendly guy with a thick accent.

"So tell me where you're travelling."

Travelling?  I hadn't realized that that would enter into the equation.  It occurred to me that maybe he wouldn't give me the shot if I wasn't.  So, I answered, honestly, that we would be travelling to Greece next week.

"Ah, Greece, yes.  Chance of mosquito-borne encephalitis, Dengue fever...You should probably get the Influenza vaccine, too..."

"No, no...I'm actually just here for the influenza vaccine."

"Ah, ok.  What about your other vaccinations?  Are they up to date?  Did you bring your card?"

"Um, no, I didn't.  Everything's up to date.  I just want a 'flu shot."

"Typhoid?  Hepatitis A?  When did you have these?"

"Before we moved here.  Look," I smiled, "I just want a 'flu shot."

"What will you be doing in Greece?  You have to be careful about air-conditioning and Legionnaire's Disease.  You might want to consider getting a pneumococcal vaccine."

Remind me again why in the hell we're going to this clearly plague-infested country and our untimely, painful, and most certain death.

"Just give me the damn 'flu shot!!"

Did I just say that out loud?  No.  No I did not.  But I do really, really have to watch that.

"OK, here is the requisition.  Take it back out to the desk."  Would that be Desk #1 or Desk #2???  "Once you've paid, come back here and the nurse will give you the injection."

Naturally, I struck out at the first desk (Desk #2).  As I waited in line again at the second desk (Desk #1), I looked over my bill.  150QR for the vaccine, 150QR for a consultation (brief).  I couldn't help but notice that this wasn't the 100QR bill I was expecting.

"Is this right?"  "Yes, madame, you have to pay for a consultation.  But I will give you your company discount.  Then you can go back to the desk and give them the receipt to show you've paid."

Great.  Back to Desk #2 it is.  "The nurse will be out shortly."  No pun intended.  "Have a seat, madame."

Except there were no seats.  So I stood.  I stood and read my book.  I checked email on my phone.  I glared at men sitting in the comfy high-back chairs.  I'm fairly sure I saw the minute-hand of the clock on the wall flit backward. I watched the nurse come out from behind the swinging doors and heard her call other patients' names, expertly avoiding eye-contact with me.  I was starting to think that having a dozen actual shots would be less painful than this whole experience.

Sometime after 2:00 pm (remember my one o'clock appointment?), I finally got my shot.  There were 276 riyals and and hour and a half gone from my life that I was never going to get back.  But I got what I wanted.  All I wanted was a 'flu shot.

And people ask me what I do all day.


  1. I love it Donna! You might be a bit envious to hear I am taking my herd to the Brentwood Village Flu Shot Clinic today! I stumbled upon the opportunity to get my shot as I happened to visit the travel clinic on October 1st - the day flu vaccines were first made available. You will have to tell us about Greece!

  2. Haha! What an experience! Well at least you still got your flu shot despite all those questions and hassle of going to and from desks 1 and 2. Your aim for the day was still accomplished though it would have been better without all that delay.

    Juliana Vanslyke