When people ask me why I’m so adamant about speaking up about vaccines, I ask them if they want the short answer or the long answer. Most of the time, the person doesn’t mind hearing the long answer. It starts out the same way a lot of other parents begin their stories, “I had a beautiful, happy, healthy baby until…”
Until a well-baby visit.
Until a round of vaccines.
Until too many too soon.
Until it was too late.
Well-baby visit after well-baby visit, I brought my child in for a check-up, for a round of shots, for a proverbial pat on the head. You did the right thing, mom. See you again soon…at the next well-baby visit!
Sadly, those well-baby visits didn’t leave my child well. In fact, Ronan wasn’t very well at all after them. The more well-baby visits he went to, and the more vaccines he received, the less well he got. He reacted. He got sick. Then he worsened.
Easily I can now recognize the signs, the symptoms, and the red flags now. But as they were happening, and even after bringing some of them to the attention of our providers? I was blind. I was uninformed. I was too trusting. I was too trusting not of my mother’s instinct, but of “the system” and of those who ran it.
I’ve learned quite a bit since then. I’ve also told Ronan’s story hundreds of times since then, too. It hurts to retell Ronan’s story as many times as I have, but I still share it. As I finish sharing Ronan’s story, I’ve either left the person I’m speaking to in complete and utter shock, or I’ve left them in a puddle of tears. Depending on whom I’m speaking to and on how much I've shared, I cry too.
What happened to Ronan?
Was there something that triggered it?
Was there something that you could’ve avoided?
I can answer those questions, but they haunt me. The explanations that I heard when I’d bring Ronan back to the doctor the sicker he got, and the farther onto the autism spectrum he tumbled, haunt me too. I was told that it was “just a phase” “because he was a boy” and “don’t worry, Mom” “because he’ll catch up”. How I had prayed Ronan would catch up.
But he didn’t. And he still hasn’t.
While watching my son miss milestone after milestone, I went through periods of feeling paralyzed to being overcome with intense worry. Out of all of the emotions I have experienced, worrying is the one that I have mastered well. That’s probably because it’s the feeling that’s stayed with me longest. It’s stuck around because that once beautiful, happy, and health baby is still sick. His development is still delayed. And he’s still hurting.
A lot of children are hurting, and I fear that more children – and adults now, too, will continue to be hurt by vaccines. More surely will if lawmakers vote to approve the vaccine mandates that are currently being proposed in several states across the country. If those mandates (which aim to restrict or remove parental rights and to mandate that adults be “caught up”) happen, I have a bad feeling that we’ll hear even more vaccine injury stories than vaccine success stories.
Until vaccine injury is no more, I’ll continue to talk about vaccines. I’ll speak up. I’ll share the story of what happened to my child. Being honest is better than being blinded. So, I’ll tell people how clueless I once was. I’ll say that I’d wished I’d known but didn’t. I’ll recall what it was like to be uninformed and how I should have been better educated instead. I’ll share all of that knowing that what I share is probably more than what they’ve ever been told by their own medical provider. I’ll offer what I can in the hopes that just one piece of information is enough.
I promise to keep talking. To keep sharing. To tell Ronan’s story over and over again. To say exactly what needs to be said. I promise to do that until there is no need to speak up about vaccines ever again.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.