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.