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When Flu Shots Go Wrong

September 12, 2010
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I want to be very clear about this: I get flu shots. I think flu shots (and other vaccines) are a good thing. I will get them every year, especially as long as I work at a medical center. I really appreciate getting them for free, and the effort that goes into making that happen. I do not want my experience to in any way discourage anyone else from getting a flu shot, because what I experienced was completely unusual and probably the result of a new person having a bad day. I was not substantially harmed in any way, and got a good story to tell in the process. In the same manner, I have documented my blood drive mishaps here before, and I continue to donate blood and to encourage others to do so. Clear enough?

With that out of the way, I got my annual flu shot last Tuesday. After registering, I made my way to the shot station, rolled up my left sleeve, and looked away in preparation for the actual stab. I felt the needle go in, which wasn’t so bad.

Until the needle wiggled, or went in further – whatever happened, it caused a feeling of repeated stabbiness – causing usually stoic-about-needles me to declare, “Ow! Ow ow ow!” I should have realized then that something unusual was happening – you typically only get *one* stabby pain from a shot, after all.

And then the nurse said, “I seem to be getting all the drippers today.”


I didn’t look right away, but felt the wetness on my arm. I was thinking, “Oh, she must have not gotten all of the vaccine in – I hope I’ll be fully vaccinated.”

And then I looked. And the wetness was blood running down my arm. And there was blood on the ground. My blood. From a flu shot?

Flu shots typically should not cause anyone to need to clean blood off the ground.

Thankfully, a more experienced nurse intervened, helping me clean the blood I couldn’t see off the back of my arm.

Here’s the bruise (and adhesive bandage irritation) on day one:
arm bruise and irritation

And here it is today, 5 days after the fact. Yeah, the picture looks like a thigh instead of an arm. It’s because of the angle I took the picture at. All ye look upon my pasty, flabby, paleness, and despair!
arm brusie day 5

And still, get your flu shots! This year it has H1N1 coverage included in the regular vaccine (so no double shots this year).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 12:58 pm

    Hmmmm…with any IM injection, the syringe should be pulled back before injecting to make sure a vein wasn’t unintentionally hit. Wonder if that protocol was followed?

  2. September 12, 2010 4:04 pm

    Whats your opinon/s on this and etc.

    I’m torn on all of this still.

    This is my story with the flu, flu shot, etc. Oh how it was written a quite a while ago and etc along those lines.

    As for me have only gotten it twice in my lifetime so far and haven’t had ill affects has of yet. 1st time I felt I needed it because the yr before I was at school. Pretty much everyone got it and wanted to be included at the time. Of course they needed permission from my parent/s or doctor, can’t remember which one. This past yr I had to get it because I had bronchitis, last feb. Was on antibiotics and some kind of syrup for it. After that had some GERD (Gastric Reflux) from everything. Was put on medication for that which is working. Believe thats it for now.

    By the way my fraternal twin sister had the shot last yr and manage to get it after the season was over. This yr she didn’t get it because her experience last yr.

  3. September 12, 2010 11:32 pm

    Good heavens. Sounds like you were a guinea pig for a new learner. I know that happens from time to time, but I think we deserve forewarning! BLOOD??!!

    Last spring I had a blood draw done by someone who took the rubber band off my arm before she was gonna poke me. I had to convince her that keeping it on was a favor she could do for me. Yikes.

    And yeah, I’m a big proponent of the flu shot too. I’d be worrying if you got enough vaccine to induce immunity. I hope you don’t need to go back for seconds.

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