Let’s talk about vaccines. I haven’t written about vaccines ever because of all the controversy that surrounds this topic. Over the years, I have gotten into some heated debates with parents that chose not to vaccinate. I understand that everyone has a choice to vaccinate or not, and until there is a law that mandates vaccination, it is a regrettable reality that my son experiences. Before I dive into the reasons why I find it imperative to vaccinate your child, I want to share an experience I went through with my son when he was an infant.
My son was born prematurely. He arrived in the world 5 weeks early. When he arrived, it was clear to doctors that something was off about his health. The moment he was delivered he didn’t cry, and he his coloring was off. The doctors whisked him away to a nursery to stabilize him, and I was unable to hold him for more than 6 hours after I delivered. We went through a lot in the first few months of his life. He spent thirty-eight days in the NICU. When we came home, he was still very, very weak and unwell. It wasn’t clear to any of the doctors what was going on, but there was no reason to keep him in the hospital because he was no longer dependent on oxygen and was eating on his own. At 3 months old, he stopped breathing in our home. We took him to the clinic where he had another apneic spell and went limp. He was rushed to the hospital.
Within hours at the hospital, my son was on full life support. He was in cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, his blood sugar was 7, and his organs were beginning to shut down. After several days on life support, the doctors identified he had a very rare disease called PanHypoPituitarism (PHP). He was born without a pituitary gland, and he had no working glands or hormones in his body. We were educated by the Endocrinology team about the disease and what we would need to do for treatment. The disease has no cure, and he will be on medications for the rest of his life. One gland that does not work is the Adrenal Glands, and unfortunately, this is a life-threatening component of his PHP.
My son at 3 months old was diagnosed with a disease that would have to be monitored closely for the rest of his life. The disease could cut his life short at any time due to how quickly an adrenal crisis can occur and the rapid speed it can shut organs down. We were also faced with a child that had premature lungs and had just been through a severe respiratory experience. His lungs were shot at this point, and breathing was very, very hard for him. Due to the magnitude of this incident, his doctors recommended we delay almost all vaccinations because his body was too fragile for them. We started to vaccinate very, very slowly. His pediatrician developed a plan that would spread them out and reduce the impact and stress on his system.
Due to the magnitude of this incident, his doctors recommended we delay almost all vaccinations because his body was too fragile for them. We started to vaccinate very, very slowly. His pediatrician developed a plan that would spread them out and reduce the impact and stress on his system. We knew there was a risk with this method, but it was the only way we could keep his body safe and give it time to recover from near death. By the time he was a year old, he was at the vaccination level of about a 6-month-old. The chart our pediatrician laid out had him fully caught up on vaccines by the time he would be 18 months. The older he got, the stronger his lungs were becoming.
At 13 months, my child was exposed to another child that was coughing and had a horrible cold. A few weeks later, we found out that the child actually didn’t have a cold but had pertussis (whooping cough). I was not upset with the parent for exposure because their child had been vaccinated. They had zero reasons to believe that their child’s cough was anything more than a terrible cold. Unfortunately, the vaccine had lost its effectiveness as the child was seven at the time, and it is now why pediatricians are recommending additional vaccinations for pertussis around this age. The child had contracted the virus from exposure to the virus from another child that had not been vaccinated. However, we knew based on his exposure and the fact that he was not fully vaccinated for the virus, he was likely to get pertussis. I made a frantic call to my son’s pediatrician. She told us to stay at home, and she immediately prescribed us a strong antibiotic.
My son started meds, but he did end up getting the virus. At times he was coughing so hard he was vomiting, he ran a high fever, and he was absolutely miserable. His doctor was adamant we do our best to keep him out of the hospital because of how many other diseases were rampant in the hospital at that time. Eventually, he recovered from pertussis, but at this point, his already very fragile lungs were further damaged. That following winter he contracted RSV only months after recovering from pertussis. This set the stage for my son developing childhood asthma. This is a disease I would wish on no parent. In addition to his adrenal insufficiency, we were now forced to deal with a child with a serious lung condition. It was at this time our pediatrician sat us down and told us the severity of what we were facing. The combined asthma and adrenal insufficiency at his young age could mean certain death if our child was left in the wrong hands. She forced us to pull our child from daycare, and we began our journey of trying to find in-home care.
As my son has grown, we have been able to stabilize asthma, but it still affects him to this day. His care team has determined that his premature lungs combined with exposure to pertussis likely spiraled his lungs to a point where they could not recover. While his lungs are easier to treat now, we still deal with it at almost age 5. All of this could have been avoided had children been properly vaccinated for the virus. The reason the child that exposed my son got the virus was that an unvaccinated child brought it to school. This child that was unvaccinated indirectly set off a course for my son that completely altered his life. He went from only having meds to managing hormones, to daily nebulizer treatments, more than a dozen visits to the Emergency Department, and admissions for asthma.
Now I want to throw a curveball into this entire story. Not only does my son have two life-threatening diseases, but recently he was also diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I can look back at his infancy and his toddler years, and all of the signs were there. I was so caught up in helping him stay alive I didn’t have time to focus on his development. However, he was showing early signs of autism at 9 months old. He would fixate on light fixtures and fans. The only way he would fall asleep was by being in a swing. Many, many nights he slept all night in a swing while I slept on the couch. When all of this was going on, he hadn’t even been vaccinated. He was still very, very early in the plan our pediatrician set up. He actually had words at age one, and they were gone by 15 months. He didn’t have the “suspected” vaccination MMR that people blame on autism until he was almost 2 years old. By this time he was well delayed, non-verbal, and my husband and I talked about how he lived in his own world.
As a parent that has a child that is both medically fragile and has ASD, I can assure you that vaccines played no role in his Autism. He wasn’t even vaccinated when he started regressing. It has been proven over and over that vaccines play no role in the cause of Autism, and all previous research has been completely discredited. Vaccines are critical for children like my son. There are thousands of people in our country that cannot be vaccinated due to allergies, being immunocompromised, illness, and numerous other reasons. We have to keep these populations safe by vaccinating our children so we do not bring back diseases that have been essentially eradicated in the United States. Vaccines are designed to help prevent the spread of viruses that can kill vulnerable populations like the elderly and the chronically ill. These populations are counting on you to make the choice to help them. We cannot look at this as a personal choice any longer as a society. This isn’t just about your family. This is about millions of people. My son was lucky. He had 2 of the 3 vaccinations of pertussis. The choice of a parent to not vaccinate their child completely altered my son’s life.
My son was lucky. He had 2 of the 3 vaccinations of pertussis. The choice of a parent to not vaccinate their child completely altered my son’s life. However had he had none of the vaccinations the doctors told us it could have easily killed him. While my son did not die, his lungs took years to recover, and we are still dealing with asthma to this day. Please think of this choice from the perspective of the entire population rather than just your family. Please don’t hate the pharmaceutical companies for developing the vaccines or working with the government to get the vaccines out to the masses. These are necessary vaccines that keep people safe of viruses that can and do kill. I am pleading with you to make a choice to help everyone and not just yourself. Thank you.