We just got home from a doctor appointment at which my nineteen month old toddler was given a tetanus shot by mistake. Uh-oh.
There is a stereotype about full-time fathers that pops up from time to time that characterizes us as incompetent, bumbling fools (think Michael Keaton in “Mr. Mom”). Like many other stereotypes, this one forces the group in question to work that much harder to overcome the misperception.
When I found out that Dylan had a medical appointment, I really tried hard to nail it. My wife usually takes care of the medical side of our lives, and this would be my chance to prove that I could handle navigating the tricky terrain of childhood immunization schedules. As many of you know, childhood vaccinations are a controversial issue due to the potential side effects. Since their inception, vaccines have met with resistance from groups of people who believe that the risks of vaccination to the individual outweigh the benefits.
After much research and consideration, Nelly and I made the decision to immunize our baby, but to attempt to spread out the battery of childhood vaccinations as much as possible and to eliminate any that we felt were superfluous in order to minimize the risks to our child.
Today, my job was to make sure that our doctor knew that we were concerned about these issues and we prefer to vaccinate only when necessary. Our doctor recommended four shots, but after I explained our needs and described our toddler’s reaction to the last round of shots he dropped the count to two. Dylan was to receive an MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) and a DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis). My wife was also acellular, as she had accidentally left her phone on the table as she left for work.
The doctor left the room, and five minutes later the nurse who had weighed and measured Dylan arrived to administer the shots. Dylan cried, but seemed fine as the nurse filled in the information in our immunization record. Dylan was offered a sticker on the way out, but I gave him two since he was such a brave and good little boy.
We stopped for gasoline on our way back home and I decided we would swing by the library to deliver my wife’s phone and to give Dylan a chance to see his mom and tell her about the new “owies” on his leg. I was feeling on top of the world and proud about how well I had handled this important task until I told my wife what shots had been given.
Nelly’s jaw dropped and we started calling the doctor’s office. It turns out that Dylan had received the DTaP shot at his last appointment in June, and that the next booster should not have been given until his fifth birthday. Uh-oh.
We called the Minnesota public health nurse while waiting for the doctor to return our phone calls and were relieved to find out that our baby was most likely going to be ok. When the doctor finally did call me back, he also felt that things were going to be fine. Our doctor thought that Dylan might have a reaction and that we should administer children’s ibuprofen for the next twenty-four hours.
Once I was assured that our baby would live, I asked as nicely as I could what went wrong, and how this could have happened. To our doctor’s credit, he admitted that he should have caught the error and that the shot should not have been given. When pressed on how this could happen, the doctor was of the opinion that our choice of a personalized immunization schedule may have thrown him off.
Dylan fell asleep half an hour ago, while I was speaking with our former doctor. He has been crying quite a bit, and walking with a stiff right leg. We will go to pick up some children’s ibuprofen when he wakes up, and I am confident that he will have a rough day or two but will be just fine in the end.
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