Thursday, August 21, 2008

Visible Scars: Upper Left Arm

Smallpox vaccination, when I was six or seven, so 45 years ago. It was not a shot; the doctor scraped a half-inch circle of skin on my upper arm, then they put a little plastic bubble over it. In the next couple of weeks, it scabbed over (they told us that was what real smallpox looked like).Eventually when it healed, the plastic came off and over the years the scar changed from a puckered circle to a faint white splotch.

This was when we were living on Charleston Air Force Base, and I also remember the polio vaccination. A van came around in the neighborhood and we went in and got a sugar cube with some brown liquid on it, and that was the vaccination. It seems like maybe we had to take several doses over time, because I recall waiting for the truck to come back.

I never really thought about what polio was or why it was bad, but I did about smallpox. That people's whole bodies would be covered with sores like the one under that plastic bubble. Over the years I followed the news about scientists who were eradicating smallpox around the world, one village and one person at a time and I was thrilled when they succeeded.

There were few vaccines at the time, so I suffered through the mumps (which I got when we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Harris in Indianapolis), the measles and the chicken pox.

By the time we moved to Panama, apparently a lot of inoculations had been developed because we got all kinds of shots - tetanus, typhoid, typhus and probably some more. My arms ached for what seemed like weeks.

I wish they'd put all medicine on sugar cubes.

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