After years of complex health issues, multiple surgeries, too many medications to name and months in hospital, I thought getting a flu jab would be a simple, fuss free event. It started when a nurse in hospital clinic asked in passing whether I had had my flu jab this year. I said I had never had one and she was surprised and asked me to see my GP and arrange one.
My immune system is shagged and I catch everything going. I caught flu a few years back and spent a week in hospital. Anyway, I pondered this and asked on my Facebook page whether other people with IBD had flu jabs. The answer was a resounding YES! And so I called the GP and asked the receptionist if she could check with a doctor if I should have one. She said she would check and call back. She did not call back.
So when I was seeing a GP recently, regarding my pouchitis, I asked her and she thought I should have one. She said she would check with another doctor and let me know. Last week I got a phone call from the surgery asking me to attend this week for my flu jab! Result!
Today I trundled along to the GP surgery for my 10.15am appointment. As I was called through, the health care assistant looked at the screen and asked why I was having this. I replied that I have Ulcerative Colitis and have had my colon removed, that I had a rubbish immune system and that it had been recommended by doctors.
She shook her head, stood up and left the room. She returned and said “Well, you shouldn’t be having this but seeing as you are here, we will do it but only this one time!” I was quite surprised and asked her why I had been called in my the surgery for this appointment, if I didn’t need the shot? She said she didn’t know.
I asked if I shouldn’t be having this because it was bad for me, she said I wasn’t on the list of reasons to give the shot. She appeared a little angry with me but I wanted to be clear on whether I should or shouldn’t have it and so I questioned again why I had been called in for this appointment. She said it wasn’t the doctors here that had asked for it, I said it was, and tried to explain about seeing the GP. She rolled her eyes and stood up, asking if I wanted to have the jab or not.
She was quite aggressive. I said to her “Look, I’m not sure why, but I feel like you’re being a bit weird with me and I am just trying to ask what the confusion is.”
“I am not being weird!” she said loudly. She was actually being aggressive, but I didn’t want to use the word ‘aggressive’. She then took the cap off the needle and stood over me, saying “are you having this or not”. I looked away and said “fine”.
She then span round and walked out, holding the needle. I was a bit shaken and so stood up and put my coat back on, I didn’t want this woman to inject me with anything! Then a nurse came back in and asked if I was having the jab. I explained that the other woman had been quite aggressive and I was just trying to understand what the problem was and whether I was supposed to be having the flu jab or not. She was friendlier and said that the other woman was a healthcare assistant and trained to just read the basic instructions on the screen.
I decided to have the shot and took off my coat. She gave the needle and it was over. I started to cry and was embarrassed so said “Look, Im sorry if I am being over sensitive”, she said that she would speak to the assistant about it all. I was really crying as I left the room. Big snot bubble weeping.
I stood in the reception in floods of tears. I know I am being over sensitive, I know that usually I wouldn’t be so upset by this, but I am in a delicate place right now, I am just out of hospital and preparing for major surgery and this did bother me. I felt really silly to be honest that I was so upset but you know that damn straw that breaks the camel’s back? Well this was mine today.
Perhaps this woman was having a bad day, maybe she didn’t know how to deal with the situation, but today really sucked and I walked out of there feeling upset, embarrassed and unsure of whether I should have even had the jab! Surely part of being a healthcare assistant means dealing with people who may be in sensitive or emotional states. I obviously annoyed her by questioning why I had been called in but she didn’t once speak kindly or apologise. She was mean and aggressive and really needs to consider how her actions affect the very people she is meant to be helping.
The NHS recommends this;
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement.
Your GP can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself. The vaccine should always be offered in such cases, even if you are not technically in one of the risk groups above.
Don’t be put off by my experience though, if you think you should be having the flu jab, get in touch with your GP.