Friday, November 22, 2013

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I am a geezer who believes that being healthy is nothing to sneeze at. I also believe that preventive medicine can be a real shot in the arm. That’s why I recently got a flu vaccine.

Yes, it took a little needling, but it didn’t hurt at all. Full credit goes to Carol Nelson, who administered the vaccine. Not only is she a fellow baby boomer who went into nursing after a long corporate career, but she’s a brave soul who, on a separate occasion, gave herself a shot in the arm.

“I didn’t want to wait in a doctor’s office,” explained Nelson, a nurse educator for Horizon Wellness, a division of Horizon Healthcare. “So I just rolled up my sleeve and gave myself a shot.”

“Did it hurt?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Nelson replied. “I wasn’t even scared.”

That’s more than she could say for a lot of people, like the guy who insisted that a secretary in the office hold his hand while he got his flu shot.

“And he was a big man,” Nelson said. “He looked like a teddy bear.”

Then there was the guy who tried to back out.

“He said, ‘Never mind! Never mind!’ I could see the apprehension in him,” Nelson recalled. “I got him to calm down. Afterward, I asked him to stick around for a few minutes to make sure he was OK. Half an hour later, he poked his head back in the door and said, ‘I’m fine.’ ”

Men, it goes without saying, but Nelson said it anyway, are the biggest babies.

“They say they don’t like needles,” she said, “but when some of them roll up their sleeves, I see these elaborate tattoos. I’ll say, ‘A needle was used to make them, right?’ They’ll nod and wince and I’ll give them a shot. Then they’ll smile and admit that it didn’t hurt after all.”

One young man who wasn’t afraid of needles also wasn’t afraid to get friendly with Nelson.

“He was batting his eyelids and flirting with me,” she remembered. “I said he should know that I’m probably older than his mother.”

Nelson, who just turned 64 but looks a lot younger, is the mother of two grown children who, along with Nelson’s husband, were very supportive of her decision to go to nursing school after she retired from the corporate world.

“They said, ‘Go for it!’ I’m glad I did because I like to help people,” recalled Nelson, adding that a lot of math was involved in figuring out medicine doses. “I’m bad at math, but I got through it,” she said.

“I’m bad at math, too,” I said. “Could I be a nurse?”

“Go for it!” said Nelson. “You could even give yourself a flu shot.”

“I’m a guy,” I said. “And a big baby.”

So I let Nelson do it.

“Which arm would you like me to give you a shot in?” Nelson asked when I sat down in a small office at work, where employees got free vaccines.

“I have it narrowed down to two,” I said. “Good thing I’m not an octopus. Do you know why there are so many octopuses in the ocean?”

“Why?” Nelson responded.

“Because,” I said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Nelson chuckled, which came as a great relief since she was, after all, holding a syringe that could have pierced an elephant’s epidermis. Still, I thought it was best not to tell her any elephant jokes.

I extended my left arm. “I’m ready,” I said, wincing.

“It’s already over,” Nelson informed me.

“That didn’t hurt at all,” I said.

“Of course not,” she said. “When it comes to protecting yourself against the flu, a little needle is nothing to be afraid of.”

It was, of course, a point well taken.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Do the Right Bling"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As a guy whose only piece of jewelry is a wedding ring that I got 35 years ago and who thinks karats are what rabbits eat, I have never believed that it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling.

Now, however, I have a band of gold that even my wife would like.

Unfortunately, neither she nor anyone else can see it.

That’s because it’s in my mouth.

This exquisite piece is a fixed mandibular retainer, which was recently affixed to the back of my bottom teeth by Dr. Stephanie Shinmachi, an orthodontic resident at the Dental Care Center at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y.

I got it at the end of my five-year treatment at Stony Brook, where I had gone because two of my teeth — one on the top, the other on the bottom — had been pushed out of alignment. To straighten things out, I got braces.

This is not uncommon among baby boomers who, like me, did not have braces when they were young. How well I remember my unfortunate classmates who answered to the name “metal-mouth” and were warned, by sympathetic friends such as myself, to watch out for flying magnets.

I didn’t have to worry about such calamities because I got invisible braces, which go by the brand name Invisalign and are made of clear plastic, unlike traditional braces that look like tracks on Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road.

During my time at Stony Brook, I was in the capable and always gloved hands of three orthodontic residents: Dr. Ben Murray, Dr. Michael Sheinis and, of course, Dr. Shinmachi. All of them deserve to win the Nobel Prize, not just for being able to shut me up for extended periods, but also for being brave enough to work in a vast and forbidding place that resembles the Grand Canyon with molars.

Dr. Murray, who was originally assigned to my case, graduated after two years of working on me. He was replaced by Dr. Sheinis, who also graduated after a couple of years of treating me.

Dr. Shinmachi took over for the final year of my treatment and finished what turned out to be a beautiful job.

“I’m like the last runner in a relay race,” she told me during my final appointment. “Dr. Sheinis handed me the baton and I took it over the finish line.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t put the baton in my mouth,” I said. “There’s plenty of room for one.”

Dr. Shinmachi was far too kind to agree, so she smiled (showing off perfect teeth) and said, “I’m going to give you a retainer.”

“I’m not a lawyer,” I said, “but I’ve been admitted to many bars. And I could use the extra money.”

Dr. Shinmachi was talking about the clear, braces-like trays that would hold my teeth in place now that I was done with my Invisalign treatment.

“You can wear them at night while you’re sleeping,” she said.

“During the day I like to sleep at my desk,” I replied. “Can I wear them at work?”

“Sure,” said Dr. Shinmachi, adding that my other retainer, the mandibular one, will prevent my bottom teeth from relapsing.

“I call it gold bling,” she said.

“Should I go to a jewelry store to have it appraised?” I asked.

“You could,” she said. “Just don’t try to hock it.”

“Do you think my wife would like it?” I wondered.

“Yes,” Dr. Shinmachi answered. “But it’s not the kind of thing you’d want to get her for her birthday.”

“I’ll buy her a piece of jewelry that people can see,” I said with my nice new smile. “And I’ll put my money where my mouth is.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima