"Tetanus is not a fun way to die."
My smashed ribs were really tender when I boarded the plane yesterday, so I bit the bullet and popped the Oxycodone I keep on-hand in case I have a kidney stone attack. This kept me (relatively) comfortable throughout the flight, for which I was grateful. By the time we landed in Seattle I was considering not going to the doctor at all, as I was feeling considerably better than when I left DutchyLand.
Until I reached up into the overhead bin to grab my bag.
Searing pain shot through my entire side, and I suddenly couldn't breathe. I'm guessing the drugs must have worn off after my ten hour adventure in the sky.
Not wanting to drive under the influence of Oxycodone, I retrieved my car for the (painful) two-and-a-half hour drive home. Where I did not pass Go. Did not collect $200. Did not even drop off my suitcase. Instead I drove directly to the walk-in clinic to see a doctor.
An hour-and-a-half plus three X-rays plus many hundreds of dollars in deductable later, I found out that nothing is broken. It would seem I merely have a hairline fracture in one of my ribs or something. It hurts like hell, but my lungs aren't punctured and I'm going to live.
At which point the doctor looks at the scrape on my head and asks when was the last time I had a tetanus shot. From what I could recall, it was in 1998 when my brother and I went to Bangkok. This caused the doctor to suck wind through his teeth and inform me that somebody who travels as much as I do should really stay current with my tetanus shots, which expire after ten years. Oops.
I was going to pass because I don't like injecting crap in my body that's not the sweet, sweet release of freshly-cooked black tar heroin, but then the doctor tells me that "tetanus is not a fun way to die." He looks really serious about it, so I get the damn shot.
Turns out the doctor is right. Wikipedia explains it thusly...
Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles—also known as lockjaw or trismus (aka "lockjaw"). The spasms can also affect the chest, neck, back, abdominal muscles, and buttocks. Back muscle spasms often cause arching, called opisthotonos. Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, which can lead to breathing problems.
Prolonged muscular action causes sudden, powerful, and painful contractions of muscle groups, which is called "tetany." These episodes can cause fractures and muscle tears. Other symptoms include drooling, excessive sweating, fever, hand or foot spasms, irritability, swallowing difficulty, and uncontrolled urination or defecation. The episodes can also cause destruction of elements of the nervous system through viral cell exchange.
Mortality rates reported vary from 48% to 73%. In recent years, and approximately 11% of reported tetanus cases have been fatal. The highest mortality rates are in unvaccinated people, people over 60 years of age or newborns.
They even provide a nice painting of tetanus in action...
Doesn't that look like buckets of fun?
So... if you want to die a drooling, urinating, defecating, mess... as your muscles rip apart and cause bone fractures (i.e. in excruciating pain), by all means skip out on getting a Tdap shot.
As for myself? I'm hoping to keep the drooling and defecation to a minimum when I die.
Though I think we all know the odds of that are slim.