Managing Editor's Note: On Saturday night at the Autism One dinner, young Sam Debold turned on the charm (and every tear duct in the room) with his muscial performance. Here is Dr. Andrew Wakefield's introduction of Sam. You can see Sam's complete performance, including the intro, on the other side of the post jump. Just click down.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just a very, very small role tonight and that is to introduce someone that I first met some years ago in Detroit. He’s a Red Wings fan. And a when I met Sam Debold through my great friend Vicky Debold, his mother, Sam was profoundly autistic. And back then when I knew very little about this disease, I wondered quite what the prospects for Sam were. And I’ve been following his progress over the years and Sam has been doing extremely well.
And then I received the other day a YouTube video of Sam which his mother instructed me to watch of Sam playing Hotel California - he’d only just heard it, I believe, for the first time that day and it was one of the most extraordinary things I’d ever seen. And so it is a great great privilege for me and without any further adieu for me to introduce Sam Debold.
I should just say that Sam is dressed in a way that makes me look under-dressed. I forgive him for that. Sam, over to you man.
How Long Must We Sing This Song?
Vicky Debold, PhD, RN
In 1983, the band U2 released an album titled War which includes Sunday Bloody Sunday, a song widely considered to be one of the most powerful political protest songs of all times. For anyone who doesn’t know the song’s history, it captures the anguish of an observer who witnessed Northern Irish civil rights protesters being fired upon by the British army (lyrics below).
For those of us within the vaccine-injured communities who are fighting on behalf of our children for the basic human right to make voluntary, informed vaccination decisions that are based on sound science rather than ideology, it is a battle. And it is personal. Like the victims of the civil war described in Sunday Bloody Sunday, many lives have been lost, our families torn apart, and everyday there’s unbelievable news where indeed, “fact” is fiction and TV becomes reality.
For anyone fortunate enough to be able to attend this weekend’s outstanding Autism One conference and Saturday night’s dinner, they heard my 11 year-old son, Sam, sing Sunday Bloody Sunday.
Sam’s story is a common one these days. He was a healthy, happy, normally developing baby until 15 months-of-age when he experienced a significant physical and social regression after receiving seven vaccines during his well-baby visit. The following day, he was unable to stand up in his crib, seemed “dazed”, was ataxic and lost interest in walking which lasted for two months, developed chronic diarrhea and progressively lost his ability to speak and all interest in socializing with his family.
In hindsight, I think he suffered from vaccine-induced ADEM (HERE) but it wasn’t diagnosed or treated. In 2000, at 3 years-of-age Sam was profoundly autistic, non-verbal and mostly disconnected from the world and his developmental pediatrician told me that he would never be able to go to school and would probably be institutionalized. Even so, he consistently would come running any time he heard the Jeopardy theme song. As a result, we started music therapy and that’s how he learned to play piano. If you’re interested, here's Dr. Wakefield's intro and Sam's first two songs (Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and Hotel California):
And here's Sam's closing, song, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin.
Although I’m very proud of Sam’s courage and what he has achieved, I’m even prouder of the autism community and more broadly, the vaccine-injured communities. Without the support, hard work and dedication of these communities, I doubt Sam would have delivered the amazing performance that he did. I happen to think that there’s something rather poignant and ironic about an autistic child soulfully wailing, “I can’t close my eyes and make it go away. How long must we sing this song? How long?”
In contrast to the song’s lyrics, the vaccine-injured community is heeding the battle call. And it’s not just the autism community. As a longtime volunteer for the National Vaccine Information Center (HERE) which has been fighting for vaccine risk awareness and informed consent for nearly three decades and answered thousands of calls from grief-stricken parents the world over including those of previously healthy teenaged girls who are devastated by Gardasil-induced injuries and death, I know that there are many more lining up to for fight for their rights.
And to all who either deny the existence of “broken bodies strewn across the dead end streets” or claim it is only a coincidence that individuals can be seriously harmed by vaccines --- we know that this is not true. These are people whom we love and their lives count.
If this issue is something you care about and would like to hear Sam sing Sunday Bloody Sunday, please come to Washington, DC on October 2–4, 2009 for the upcoming NVIC 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination (HERE).
Sunday Bloody Sunday
I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away
How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long... (Read the full lyrics HERE.)
Dr. Debold has worked in the health care field for over 25 years and currently works as a consultant performing health services research and policy analysis related to patient safety. She has worked as a health policy analyst for the U.S. Congress, Physician Payment Review Commission, Michigan Health and Safety Coalition, and the Michigan State Commission on Patient Safety. Additionally, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and an Associate Professor and Director of the Health Systems Management Program at the University of Detroit Mercy. Her doctoral degree is from the University of Michigan - School of Public Health (Health Services Organization and Policy) and School of Nursing (Health Systems Administration). She was a Regent's Fellow and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in health systems research. She serves as an Executive Board member for The Coalition for SafeMinds.