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Doug Clark: No jingles for shingles – it’s just no fun

Sun., April 1, 2012, midnight

I made a huge, life-altering decision while shopping at the South Hill Safeway store some months ago.

Even weirder, this particular moment of consequence came at the pharmacy window and not my usual bakery outpost where I’m often seen wrestling over whether to take home the glazed or the frosted donuts.

This new conundrum came after quizzing Tom Stanley about a sign that promoted vaccination shots for a condition I really wasn’t up to speed on.


Yes, the pharmacist said, the vaccine is important. Stanley added that it was available and advisable for anyone 60 and over.

That’s me, all right.

Stanley’s my go-to guy for flu shots. The man’s a maestro with a needle. And the way he told it, shingles is one of the outlaw motorcycle gangs of the virus world.

I began filling out the pre-shot form.

But then …

Will my insurance cover it? If not, the injection would be $209. Not a deal-breaker, but maybe I should check before taking the plunge.

Decision made. I told Stanley I’d get right back to him.

Which meant I promptly put the topic of shingles out of my head. At least I did until one recent night when I awoke abruptly at 3 a.m. because some fiend was SKEWERING A WORLD WAR II BAYONET INTO MY BACK.


That’s what it felt like, anyway.

Deep, penetrating pain is one of the classic symptoms. That and the telltale red blotches that began to appear on my stomach and back.

Did I mention pain?

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been mainly holed up in a spare bedroom now known as the Lair of Anguish. Time has crawled by in a fog of stabbing pain, burning pain, itching pain …

Shingles offers more varieties than Baskin-Robbins.

Today, however, I come to you a changed man. And not just due to my still-lingering aches and now-fading spots.

I am on a mission to raise shingles awareness through the power of commiseration.

I’m calling on you shingles survivors. Send me your tales of woe via the contact information below. (Make sure to leave your name and a phone number.)

The best anecdotes will be aired in a future column because …

Everybody loves medical horror stories.

But as a bonus, reading them just might stop someone like me from committing vaccination procrastination.

Shingles is nothing to sneeze at. There are a million cases a year, according to the Internet.

I called our Regional Health District to find out if what I had was much of a problem around here.

“My co-worker has them right now,” said Kim Papich, a health district spokesperson.

Lord. We’re in a plague.

Fortunately, shingles vaccine is available with a doctor’s permission to those 50 and over. No script is required if you’ve turned 60, like me. The older you get, the more likely you are to come down with it.

As I understand it, anyone who has been exposed to chicken pox carries the virus that can erupt into shingles practically anywhere on the body.

Just pray it doesn’t pop up too close to an eye. It’s rare, but shingles has actually been known to cause blindness.

Now that I’m on the mend, however, there is one thing I’ve learned from this aggravating experience.

“If you can’t trust your pharmacist,” said Stanley with a chuckle, “who can you trust?”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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