It is my personal message to anti-vaxxers.
(‘Anti-vaxxer - a person who is opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who does not wish to vaccinate their child’).
When my youngest sister was a tiny baby, she contracted whooping cough.
(‘Whooping cough - or pertussis – is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.’)
It was a long time ago now, but I still remember her little face turning bright red, then maroon, then purple, then blue, as my mother raced out the open door, seeking a blast of cold winter air to (hopefully) shock the baby’s tiny body into taking a clear breath; a breath unaccompanied by the alarming strangulating ‘whoop’ that we heard and saw. It was truly awful and we as older siblings sometimes cried with fear at the sight of this small baby struggling to breathe in the arms of our frantic mother.
The baby girl survived and for that we were (and are) eternally thankful.
The following year, when I (as a nine-year-old) was hospitalised to have my tonsils removed, a cross-infection occurred and I received a ‘nasty’ dose of measles.
(… ‘Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Initial signs and symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes.’…)
Of course it was nasty – there is no other sort of measles. I remembered my young brother’s earlier experience of the disease where the lights had to be dimmed and he was not allowed to venture out in the sunshine as the measles affected his eyes so much, there was a real danger of blindness.
My experience with the dreaded measles did not so much affect my eyes but crept into the inner parts of my ears.
Each night I woke screaming with searing ear-ache and each morning my mother had to deal with the brown pus that had stained the cloth on my pillow after yet another abscess had burst.
This went on for some weeks until the pain and rattling sensation of ear drums bursting finally subsided.
Ten years later, after finishing school and applying for a teaching studentship, I was informed that the measles-induced damage to my ear drums had affected my hearing to such a degree that I was unacceptable as a trainee teacher.
For a while I thought that my life-long dream of becoming a teacher was at an end and I was devastated.
But, never to be one to take ‘no’ for an answer, I appealed and, after testing by several other state-employed doctors, I finally found one who judged my desire to be a teacher to be greater than my inability to always hear perfectly.
What followed was a teaching career that was long, successful and extremely enjoyable – but one that nearly wasn’t.
Some years ago, I finally succumbed to what I saw as being a ‘cave-in’ and accepted hearing aids fitted for both ears.
I am fully accustomed to them now, but would rather not have ever had the need for them.
But for the awful experience of measles, my life would have been filled with more of nature’s beautiful sounds – of all sorts.
I escaped easily – some children of my generation suffered much more than I did.
Some others suffered more than my baby sister; some died.
So, I am telling my story in an attempt to reach parents who claim that a healthy life-style and a so-called 'sensible attitude' alone will protect their children from these truly ghastly illnesses.
It is not so.
I had my children vaccinated against the diseases. My grandchildren are similarly protected from illnesses that are once more appearing in our world.
It is utter foolishness to say that vaccination causes more trouble and disability than the diseases they prevent.
Anti-vaccination believers need to listen to stories like mine to understand that these totally preventable childhood diseases are not simple things. They are able to maim and kill.
(‘..experts say several diseases that are avoidable are making a comeback due to anti-vaxxers who refuse to vaccinate their kids..’).
There is no link between vaccines and autism.. .a fact well proved since 2011.