When my kids’ sports seasons ended this spring I was glad for the break. Don’t get me wrong; I love supporting my kids and seeing them excel on the field and on the court. But the late afternoon practices, the travel time to away events, and the later-to-bedtime evenings took a toll on all of us. When the seasons ended, and when summer vacation finally arrived, I soaked in all the extra time that I wasn’t running here, there and everywhere.
That respite lasted all of about 3½ weeks.
My oldest had fall sports on the brain long before last school year ended. She’s been dreaming about being back on the court for months now. I love her enthusiasm and am her biggest cheerleader. I promised to make sure she would get to some of the practices when the summer schedule was announced. I was all set to add those to the family calendar again earlier this week, but before getting back into the swing of things, Fiona had to get a sports physical. Not usually covered by insurance, other parents in the past had let me know that we could go to an urgent care or walk-in clinic to get that exam done. Since it would take a while to get an appointment with our regular doctor, I decided to go to a walk-in clinic. But which one?
Do I go to the one where a young doctor attempted to scare me with outdated third-world country statistics? Do I go back to the one where the charge nurse accused Ronan’s little sister of making herself wheeze and making her throat constrict on command when her throat was in fact actually closing? Do I go to the one where the nurse was hell bent on selling me the HPV vaccine for my daughters when I’d already politely declined the vaccine several times? Or do I go to the one where they wanted to give my daughter a flu shot when the reason for our visit had nothing to do with the flu or the flu shot but everything to do with a potential bone break?
Since vaccine discrimination is alive and well, I wanted to be careful with whom I chose. While one place offered a deep discount for the physical, I went with my gut and headed to another place. We’d had success the year before for a minor medical issue. When we’d used their services previously, the medical staff was attentive, polite and attended to the medical condition that my child presented. Not only that, vaccines were not even discussed. That’s because vaccines had nothing to do with the issue at hand. Imagine that! Where other urgent care places we’d been to took a ‘grab and stab’ mentality (you’re here, you’re ‘behind’ on vaccines, let’s go ahead and catch you up), this group focused on the medical situation that brought us into the place. Hoping for a repeat experience, I said a little prayer before we got to the place, “Lord, if things get heated, as You know has happened in the past, please help me to know what to say and to then say it with charity. Amen.”
The nurse recognized us and was welcoming as we walked in. Holding nothing back, I felt confident in sharing the personal and medical information that was asked of me. I don’t always get to do that. Other providers who’ve been pushy and one-sided make me clam up. They get the basics or a carefully worded statement from me about my child’s medical history or vaccine status, and that’s it. I’m always honest. It’s just that lately, with how closed-minded some people are, and with how threatening some providers can be, I’m more judicious in how I reply.
Thankfully, we ran into none of that last week. And since Fiona has no pressing medical issues that would restrict her from participating in athletic activities, the exam was over almost as soon as it had begun. I paid a little bit more than I wanted to for it, but we walked out with what we needed and without being heckled or belittled in any way.
Ushering Fiona and her younger siblings who accompanied us that morning to the parking lot, I thumbed through the stack of papers, which included the signed physical form and some others that their office printed off. Right before I got to the car, I laughed out loud. One of the pages included a section titled Keep Your Child Healthy and Safe.
The first paragraph stated: …take your child to the pediatrician…it’s a smart way to keep your child healthy…be sure to keep well-visits…where the doctor will administer any vaccinations that are due…
The kids chuckled when I read that aloud.
“Mom, well-visits are just a way to get you in their office.”
“Then some won’t let you leave until they give you all kinds of vaccines”
“Yeah, even ones you don’t need!”
Then I read to them what had made me laugh.
Now, the average parent who’s never walked in my shoes – that is as the parent of a vaccine injured child, may not appreciate the following as much as I did, but Fiona absolutely understood the irony after we discreetly high fived each other upon leaving the exam room not moments before: Teach your child to avoid risky situations and violent people. Tell them not to be afraid to call for help…
“Mom. Really? We’re all about avoiding risky vaccine situations, huh?” she said matter-of-factly.
Proudly, I replied, “Yes, my dear, we are. You very much are now, too.”
Having witnessed awful attitudes thrown at me by pro-vaccine providers in the past, Fiona understood full well why I couldn’t just walk into just any clinic with her that day. It had to be one where we felt safe and where our rights would be fully respected. My younger children are learning how important that is as well. They, too, have heard the stories and have witnessed the reality of being discriminated against because we choose to – and have every right to – opt out of certain procedures.
I never thought I’d have to teach them how to protect themselves when they find themselves in a doctor’s office, but with how intimidating some providers have been toward us, I must. As my children get older, I want them to keep in mind everything that I’ve done to protect them. I also want them to remember that when they’re adults, it’s their bodies, their choice when it comes to vaccines. No one else should get to make that decision for them. No one.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.