By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
On the night the Polings were to be interviewed by Larry King on CNN I had a problem. On that same night I’d been asked by the principal of the school at which I'm a science teacher to talk to the PTA about our science program.
I didn’t want to miss this historic interview with the parents of the first child for whom the government conceded that vaccines had “significantly aggravated” her autism, as well as her seizures. The PTA meeting didn’t actually start until just after the Larry King show ended so I asked the principal if she could open up another classroom with a television so I could watch.
“I’ll join you,” she replied, showing up two minutes before the start of the show, clutching a bag of Taco Bell takeout. Everybody at school knows I’m an activist about vaccines and autism, but my principal has always been non-committal. She listens, asks questions, but has never ventured an opinion.
As Larry King interviewed Dr. Jon Poling and his wife, Teri I couldn’t help but notice how closely my principal was watching the program. Finally I asked, “Hey boss, why are you so interested in this?”
My principal is a reserved woman, sometimes even a little shy, but this time there was no hesitation. “I think my niece is autistic,” she answered. “I’ve talked to my sister about it, but she’s not there yet.” She pointed to the Polings and Larry King. “When she is ready to talk, I want to be able to tell her what to do.”
I thought about that night with my principal a lot this last weekend after having a long conversation with a fellow autism activist. This activist had some criticisms of Age of Autism for aggressively pushing the vaccine-autism connection.
It wasn’t that she thought we were wrong, but that we were making it difficult for medical researchers to study this link. By the same token, though, she didn’t really trust the CDC to do the right thing. This activist was worried that there were only a few medical researchers in the world who could do the needed research, especially the newly opened avenue of a possible mitochondrial connection.
If the subject became too hot those few researchers who could perform unassailable research might decide they’re already too busy, or didn’t need the headache of taking on the American medical establishment.
I am not so pessimistic.
In difficult times there have always been heroes who have answered the call of decency and truth.
More than thirty years ago a source known only as “Deep Throat” provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with the information they needed to bring down a corrupt president. That source was eventually revealed to be Mark Felt, the number two man at the FBI. One of J. Edgar Hoover’s original G-men brought down Richard Nixon. Heroes can come from the most unlikely of places. I believe there are still such people of honor and integrity existing today and they will take the same risks Mark Felt did to help our children.
“I’ve talked to a lot of these researchers,” this activist told me, “and they’re so scared of what might happen to them if they venture into this area that they wouldn’t do it even if you promised them a million dollars or the Nobel Prize when it’s all over.”
The activist was absolutely correct.
The medical professionals we need won’t help for the promise of money or glory. They’ll help because of a tiny voice inside which tells them to do what’s right.
They’ll help us because they came from families where integrity and honesty were paramount. These are values they’ll want to pass down to their children. They’ll help us because they see the values of their own profession at stake. They’ll help us because they took an oath to be healers.
I don’t know what form the heroism of these people will take. Is there research they’ve already done, but haven’t yet published? Is there work they want to start? Is there something in a private file they’d like to see reach the right reporter?
All I know is that when you ask for heroes, they usually show up. And I am asking for your help.