Flu shot

He didn’t expect to wake up one morning
with leaden legs that wouldn’t move when he willed them to,
like the circuitry had been fried.
I see his crew cut and dog tags
and marvel how he survived heat stroke
and IEDs in Iraq.
And now he can’t feel a pinprick below his belly button
or move his legs.
He may never walk again,
All because of a flu shot.

Sometimes you get aches and pains,
or chills that will make you grab a blanket
and kick it off your legs at the same time.
You may expect a little soreness at the inoculation site,
that whirl of inflammation described by Arthus.
I got my flu shot too.
It was mandatory.
All I felt was the lightning poke of the 25-gauge needle.

And now this other man thrashes against the restraints
tied to ankles and wrists to prevent him from pulling out
the tube that breathes for him.
He looks at me wide-eyed and delirious.
He’s only forty-one,
but influenza has ravaged his lungs and brain.
He may never come off the ventilator,
and if he does, his mind will never be the same.
All because he didn’t get a flu shot.

An internal medicine resident at the University of Utah and will be joining their hospitalist group in the summer of 2017. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and two children.