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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Cartoons and Shots

I have vivid memories of the HIP (Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, a prepaid health plan) waiting room on East 23rd Street in Manhattan, which I often visited as an elementary school child. I most remember two things about that room: the magazines, and the anticipation of a possible shot.

The magazines were piles of old New Yorkers. I couldn’t begin to make sense of the writing, but I loved the cartoons, whose captions I could make sense of. Combing the magazines for cartoons was a happy treasure hunt–like poking through Cracker Jacks looking for the coated peanuts.

As much as I enjoyed the magazines, the thought that I might be getting a shot could ruin my pleasure. In those days needles were sterilized and re-used, which meant that they were often dull. I was a sensitive child, and those shots hurt–especially the dreaded tetanus booster.

I liked my two pediatricians, Dr. Temerson, who died young, and then Dr. Stone, who was bald and wore glasses. If, during the visit, they told my mother that I needed a shot, she’d lead her child, now scared and miserable, back to the same waiting room. But now I couldn’t concentrate on the magazines. Instead, I begged and wheedled uncontrollably, a routine that never accomplished anything. When it came to shots, my mother, usually a kind and empathetic woman, had a heart of stone.

A no-nonsense nurse, dressed in white, gave the shots. She had little patience for my terror and little sympathy for my tears. After the deed was done, she’d offer me a lollipop. The lollipop was good, but if the nurse thought it would help me forget the torture I’d suffered, she was wrong.

Paul Gross
New Rochelle, New York

Comments

1 thought on “Cartoons and Shots”

  1. Colleen Fogarty

    Bravo Paul! I LOVE the child’s perspective on the New Yorker, especially the affinity for the cartoons!

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