Meet my best shot at fighting the flu

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Jerry Zezima Newsday staffer Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The

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.

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"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."

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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."

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Nelson chuckled, which came as a great relief since she was, after all, holding a syringe with a needle 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.

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