By Cathy Jameson (reprinted from 10/11, Cathy has the day off.)
Good grief, my kids can lay it on thick. I’ve got doom and gloom peering out from their bloodshot eyeballs. Why you ask? Well, we were recently exposed to some kids who had received the Flumist vaccine. Hours and hours and hours of contact, play time, meal time and chit chat occurred before I found out those children opted to have the live flu virus jammed up their nostrils earlier in the day. You might have heard the primal scream I let out when I returned to the quiet of my home after discovering this bit of news. I’m usually the eternal optimist. Not so much that day. I was cursing like a sailor instead.
I have five kids, one vaccine injured son and another boy with some immune system issues. I have three healthy daughters who most of the time have nary a sniffle. After the Flumist discovery, I declared a fortnight of no contact with those children I promise I won’t call potential mini virus spreaders. I hoped the two week time buffer would give me a chance to keep my kids free from exposure from the shedding a live-virus vaccine does once it enters the body. But, it was too late. Like a firing squad, one child at a time came down with fevers, coughs, the chills, achy joints and rotten attitudes. Antsy yet inconsolable greeted me for too many days in a row. Of course I blamed my kids’ sickness on the recent source we’d been exposed to—their playmates.
Before my kids got really sick, they retaliated to a two-week-free-from-the-Flumist-friends decree I made. “Why can’t we play with them? We promise not to get too close.” They begged. They bribed. “We’ll be extra nice and help you more if we can go play, okay?” I repeated the decree with a brief explanation as to why it was important to give us time and space away from them—we don’t want Ronan to get sick. If he catches the flu (or the “flu-like” symptoms lots of people encounter after receiving the flu shot) from these friends, it can really make him very sick. They understood that part, but there were still terribly ticked that I took two friends away so quickly. Oh, the looks I got. Ouch, that one from my oldest seared through my heart! She’d just befriended one of the girls. They’d planned more hours and hours of fun. “Please, oh, please, oh, please, achhhhoo, can I go over to see her again? I’ll be quick. Please?” I said no. I put my foot down and said no again with her pathetic plea, “Awww, Mom. Please? Just for a few minutes?” My other foot went down, NO. You don’t understand, and I’m sorry you think I’m the bad guy, but no. Wait a few weeks and then you can play. “WEEKS?!?!” Yes, I said, at least two weeks for their flu virus to do what it’s “supposed” to do and then you can play again.
Two weeks. A fortnight of frowny faces. The kids scowled in between napping off their aches, fevers and coughing all over the place. Oh, well. Mean Old Mom strikes again. It’s a title I’ve earned and one I plan on keeping close by.
Of course, it could have been anywhere that my kids picked up these menacing germs. But, I took the opportunity to tell my children a little bit more about vaccines. Yes, they are supposedly around to keep people healthy. Yes, vaccines have been around for a long time. Yes, some vaccines quite possibly did in fact save lives at one time. But, when people get live virus vaccinations but then don’t quarantine themselves while the live virus sheds, other people are at risk. My boys are perfect examples of being at risk. When they get sick, their problems can lead to an emergency room run to get medical attention. I further explained about the live virus and its role in vaccines--how it sheds and how other people can be exposed to that shedding and later fall ill from that exposure. The children’s new-found friends were my scapegoat as I described the process and how long it typically takes for the shedding process to occur. Slowly, in between the glares, my kids understood. I wouldn’t say they appreciated my input, but they at least took me out of the picture as the one to blame for destroying their fun.
Three days later my five-year old came down with her flu-like symptoms. She was the third to get pummeled getting hit hard with the aches, chills and a very high fever. Coming home from school very distraught that day, she told me that a classmate of hers missed the morning portion of school to get his flu shot. In the throes of her high fever she burst into tears, “Mommy, why’d they go and do that?” My typical son listened to this sad story and announced through his horrible wheezing and coughing, “I wish the flu shot had never been invented.”
The glares of grief I had been getting from these precious children of mine turned into dull eyes full despair for their peers. My kids have been on the receiving end of vaccines that did other things to their body than keep them healthy. Because of that, I try to shelter my children’s health when I can. But, do I pull them from school every time we hear of a classmate getting a shot? If I don’t, they’ll be exposed to whatever the regular population of typically vaccinating people share. Before shots are doled out to the classmates by their doctors, and because my kids are in school this year instead of homeschooled, I wonder if I should talk to some of my kids’ playmate’s parents I run into prior to those “well-child” visits. But, would it sound like I’m crucifying the parent? Maybe they’re just misinformed and think that because the shot record has all those empty boxes they need to fill every single one of them up. Do parents of school-aged kids know it’s not solely up to the doctor to inject any and every vaccine on the market into their child? They as the parents should know they have the ability to say thank you, but no thank you to vaccines, right? Do I take this opportunity to educate someone who might think I’m chastising them instead of educating them? I need to defend my children as all parents try to do without potentially martyring myself by being vocal with new people who have no idea how devastating their vaccine choices affect my family.
No easy answer exists with a situation like this. I could hole myself up in my house with my family and try living in a bubble of just us and our own germs. Or, I could better prepare my children by boosting their immune systems pre-flu season. They’ll surely now be exposed to many more people, illnesses and even circumstances where they too may have to make a stand. My oldest told me that she and two of her classmates “talked from before lunch through the end of recess!” about vaccines because of what happened to her brother Ronan. One classmate said her Mom won’t let her get any shots while the other classmate hadn’t heard anything about them. It took longer to explain why Ronan can’t talk and has to go to a special school to learn things. But, my daughter said she didn’t stop talking about vaccines and vaccine safety until that friend understood.
I’ve got mini advocates in training. My typical kids are determined to defend their brother and how his “autism” really isn’t Autism. These siblings understand full well that they had a typical brother in Ronan at one time. My younger two don’t remember Ronan any other way than how he acts and behaves today. But, they love to hear the stories of “Remember when Ronan could do ____!” We’d all love to see those things and to hear his voice again. Those stories remind my typical children that everything we do to help Ronan includes extra work and time to secure his many hours of therapy they don’t want to go to. It includes Mommy’s vigilant efforts to ward off unwelcomed live viruses voluntarily injected into other children. It also includes being faith filled believers knowing that every effort we offer can be rewarded by some gain or word finally spoken by their brother again. It takes all of us Jamesons to work together to bring good health and more successes his way.
Grouchy glares from my little people finally turned into tender-hearted hugs. Ronan actually stayed healthy the entire time that one by one, his siblings fell ill. Those siblings are now finally on the mend (thank goodness). It’s been two weeks exactly since I yanked that playmate playtime away. Several days in a row, the Flumist kids showed up to ask if my kids could play. I was exhausted from nursing my children back to health, but I politely said no thanks, not today. I told them that everyone was sick and to come back in a week. Or two. I really wanted to yell, “Up your nose with a rubber hose…that flu shot really, really blows!” But, I didn’t yell that. I’ll save that line for another time when I am not so tired of what the flu season does to me or my kids.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.