Saturday, January 5, 2013

"This Mama is Exhausted"

The other day, a mom e-mailed us asking for guidance for writing a letter to her state legislators regarding her concern about the rise in vaccine-preventable disease, particularly pertussis, and her state's lax immunization laws. In doing some research on this year's pertussis situation, I came across some remarkable statistics. That 2012 is the worst year for pertussis in nearly sixty years. That Washington State has a full 11% of the nation's pertussis cases (an infant has already died from the disease) while also being the state with highest conscientious objection vaccine-exemption rates. That my home state, Minnesota, is suffering a terrible pertussis year, with more than 4,000 cases recorded at the Minnesota Department of Health. 

But the most remarkable piece of data I came across was not a statistic. It was a story. It appeared on the notably anti-vax forums of One mother did not vaccinate her younger children against pertussis. Then her children contracted pertussis. From her post

Sure they may end up with full immunity to pertussis (at least severely), but my 9yo and 11yo have suffered tremendously with uncontrollable coughing fits that wake them up every hour or two and leave them gasping for breath, gagging and sometimes vomiting.  They are exhausted.  The mama is exhausted...
sometimes running upstairs to comfort them dozens of times in a couple hours.  My 4yo has been up many nights herself and while not to the severity of the older two, it could break your heart to see her cough.  My 2yo is just starting to cough.  When the 9yo and 11yo started whooping and the severe cough we took them in to be seen and we have now been prescribed antibiotics for the entire family.  While I suspect the oldest 3 of us were exposed first, we won't take any chances in spreading it to anyone, and because I am 25 weeks pregnant.  I am hopeful that they will prevent my youngest little one from getting to the severe cough point. 

We have always said that we will choose not to vaccinate but always been willing to re-evaluate our decisions like any other.  When we found out the pertussis was circulating in our region we had decided to go ahead with the shots and even called the health dept...the kids came down sick literally 2 days later and the shots were postponed.  Sick irony if you ask me!

She goes on to say she know she will "catch some flak" for these comments, which is a profoundly sad commentary on the anti-vaccine community, if you ask me. But I was stunned by this mother's strength of character to not only decide that her decision not to vaccinate her little ones for pertussis was a mistake and to schedule those shots, even if she was too late, but also to stand up in a hostile environment as an insider (not as someone coming from outside the group) and say: the vaccine is better than the disease. I don't know if she will choose to catch her children up on all their vaccinations (one can hope) but I find this particular story, and this particular mom's courage, inspiring.

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