Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tetanus Shot Boosts my Gardening Peace of Mind

It has long been on my list of things to do: go get a tetanus booster. If you have the basic set from childhood, you need a boost every ten years. Mine expired in the last century. Tetanus bacteria are in the dirt where we gardeners hang out, and they can get inside whenever you puncture yourself, like when you miss the rose stem and prune your compost coated knuckle.

My nurse friend Ms Erica has gruesome tales of terminal tetanus patients she encountered in Mexico, where many people don’t get immunized. She can entertain you during dinner with information about how bones break with the force of locked up tetanic muscles.

So this information was in my mind a last week when something odd started happening in my face. It felt like the sensation you get when you are sucking a lemon drop and someone makes you laugh. My cheek and jaw muscles were tightening on their own, once on Wednesday, then quite a few times on Thursday.

That fits the early symptoms of tetanus quite nicely, I found. I did not have any surface wounds of note, but I had done some volunteer pruning in a rank jungly garden where I just know I was thrashing around in every make and model of microbe. I wondered if it was just a matter of time until I developed the “sardonic smile” symptom, at which point I would definitely make a move toward the hospital. I pictured myself sardonically smiling as I said to the Mister: Can take me to the emergency room, now?

The next day came and went without any cheek misbehavior or further indications of tetanus. What caused that I do not know. However I took it as a hint and made an appointment at the clinic, and today I got my injection. It's just one shot in the upper arm, practically painless for me, and no achy complications so far. So my tale is rather anticlimactic, as I will not be one of the 60 people who develop tetanus in the US annually. I do hope that none of you will be either.


Daphne said...

The last time I got a tetanus show was when I took a 3 week trip down the Grand Canyon. I figured 3 weeks in the back country was worth getting a shot for. I really hate shots. And I don't think tetanus shots are easy. They make my arm ache for about 2-3 days. We just don't get along. Next year though I'll get one. It will have been a decade.

Muddy Mary said...

Actually my upper arm is kind of stiff and achey since I blithely wrote about it being painless yesterday. There has been less Chicken Dance than ever for me today. But on the bright side, no lockjaw either.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad the story had a happy ending. I got my booster as a big bug bite a few years ago. Yes, tetanus can be a real problem. I found your blog through Blotanical. Welcome. You might want to check out My Corner of Katy. She gardens in Katy, TX.~~Dee

Barbee' said...

This is very thoughtful of you to remind everyone about something important. Lock Jaw is not something to laugh about. It is a horrible death that is unnecessary in this country. When I have college students help me in the garden, I always tell them to ask their mom when they last had a booster. I make that a regular part of the interview and orientation.

Mother Nature said...

If only I were responsible like you. I'm the wait till there is a big crisis and try to handle it person. Welcome and I really love your blog.