Tonawanda News

January 17, 2013

KEPPELER: I was a flu-shot naysayer

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Every bone in my body hurt.

My arms and legs ached. I couldn’t take a deep breath without coughing uncontrollably. I was exhausted despite having slept for the vast majority of the previous 24 hours. I had no appetite for more than a week, and even the smallest noise from my concerned kids, peeping in the doorway, set off a tremendous headache.

This, then, was the flu.

Only a week before, I’d considered getting a flu shot. Perhaps a trifle smugly, I decided against it. “I almost never get sick,” I thought. “I’ve got a good immune system; I can fight it off if necessary,” I thought. “They say it doesn’t do much good anyway,” I thought.

Well, flu, 1, Jill’s immune system, 0.

This happened in mid-December. I was down for the count for most of a week, finally mostly better (though still no appetite) 10 days later, finally starting to get rid of the nagging cough 20 days later. Then I started feeling that lingering sense of “sick,” the harbinger of the December flu bout, yet again ...

Wham. Not as bad as December, but down for the count again. As of this writing, it’s been a month since that first day spent sick in bed, and I’m still not myself. Better, thanks to belated meds and a doctor visit, but still not 100 percent. The nagging cough continues to nag. The persistent fatigue continues to persist. I will never get that time spent sick in bed, or lost in a congestion-related haze, back.

Given the choice, I never, ever want to deal with this again.

I know there are a lot of people who prefer not to get flu shots. Either (like me) they’ve never had one and never felt the lack, or there are other reasons, from disbelieve in its effectiveness to the (false) conviction that the shot gives you the flu to various conspiracy theories.

Well, I’m not trying to convince you. But when you’re thinking about it, I want you to realize just how lousy the past month has been for me — someone generally oh-so-proud of how she “never gets sick.” And I want you to know this:

During the past month, as I coped with flu effects and aftereffects from the awful to the relatively minor, my husband and young sons — all of whom had received flu shots early in the season — sailed through it with barely a sniffle.

I was a germy mess. There is no way, none, that they wouldn’t have encountered the flu virus in our house, some way, some how, no matter how much sanitizing we did. Granted, this means that apparently I had the strain that their shots protected against, but the bottom line is this alone: My family didn’t get the flu.

My husband was healthy to care for the family solo, healthy enough to continue to work. I didn’t have to consol my 8-year-old as he dealt with those awful body aches, or listen to my 4-year-old dealing with that horrible hacking cough.

That sold me. Next year, I’m listening to the doctors. I’m getting a flu shot.

Do I think they’re perfect? Nope. Really, nothing is. 

But anything that can keep me — even potentially — from feeling like that again, with all the attendant loss of productivity, stress and fear for the kids it entails, has to be worth it.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at