The following is an account of our personal life experience .. having reached the advanced ages of 75 and 73 .. married for fifty years .. the very proud parents of two .. a 49 year old daughter .. born in 1965 .. and 48 year old son .. born in 1966 .. and now .. proud grandparents of five .. three grandsons .. ages 24, 15 and 14 .. two granddaughters .. ages 22 and 12.
As someone once wrote: "children are the rainbow of life .. and .. grandchildren are the pot of gold that follows". Amen to that.
Some background history of our generation ....
Toddlers born in the late 1930's .. like us .. were recommended to receive a smallpox vaccination plus a separate dose of diptheria vaccine. A toddler born in 1944, was recommended to receive a pertussis vaccine .. and .. by 1947 .. the Academy of American Pediatricians (AAP) was recommending toddlers receive a combination Diptheria, Pertussis , Tetanus (DPT) vaccine. We have no way of knowing .. if we received the DPT in 1947 .. but .. we seriously doubt it.
(However, with the benefit of generational hindsight .. we would like to know .. in 1947 .. "why" public health officials combined three vaccines .. Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus (DPT) .. into one? Was the combination of three in one done because it was "safer" for the toddlers .. or .. purely for the "cost efficiency" of manufacturers, public health officials .. and .. the "convenience" of pediatricians and parents .. under the pretense of being solely for the toddler's benefit .. having to receive only one shot instead of three?
Whatever the reasoning .. the combination of three or more vaccines in a single shot in 1947 .. set a precedent that has now become routine .. some "single" shots today contain six or seven vaccines .. again raising the question for whose benefit are six or seven vaccines now routinely combined?)
As far as I know .. the "small pox" vaccine is the only vaccine available to me as a child that is credited .. in the "court of public opinion" .. justifiably or not .. with eradicating that disease .. so much so .. it is no longer required for children of today's generation. The same cannot be said for the original (1947) DPT vaccine .. which .. in my experience .. has an entirely different history regarding success.. or .. more importantly .. the lack thereof.
Vaccines aside .. .. as children born in 1939 .. our childhood experience was vastly different from a child growing up today. In those long-ago days .. children played "rough and tumble" games organized by themselves .. most times .. under the ever watchful eyes of neighbors .. in the middle of the street where cars rarely intruded on our games .. or .. vacant sandlots .. from early morning until the sun went down .. boys .. "stick ball", "box ball", "johnny on the pony" .. girls .. "jump rope", "Potsy" .. joining together to "roller skate" .. play "hide and seek", "ringo-levee oh" .. etc. We all had radios in our homes .. later on the luckier ones had black and white televisions .. which ended each day around 11 PM .. with the National Anthem being played .. before the screen went dark.
Admittedly .. our generation had a much simpler childhood .. thanks to little or no intrusion by adults or government .. such as .. adult run little leagues .. where "coaches" decide who, when, where games are played .. sometimes no score is kept .. yet .. everyone gets a trophy .. just for participating .. or .. government rules requiring us to wear bike helmets, batting helmets, seat belts, etc .. all adjustable according to age, size and weight .. because .. unlike vaccines .. parents and manufacturers .. instinctively knew it would be impossible to manufacture a .. "one size fits all" .. product.
Yes .. measles, mumps and chickenpox were far more common in our childhood .. but .. they were more or less considered benign .. by both .. parents and children .. than public health officials consider them today. Indeed, we not only survived them .. having attained life-long immunity from having contracted them as children .. we seem to have thrived.
As I remember it .. somewhere around 10 or 11 years of age .. (1950?) .. having never heard of "stranger danger" .. it was routine for unaccompanied children to attend neighborhood theatres on weekends that featured two movies for the price of one .. and .. during the ten minute intermission between the "double features" .. the children in our audience were routinely exposed to positively frightening "world-wide news" images of kids our own age .. suffering polio .. who were confined to iron-lungs.
As I think back today .. as a 10 or 11 year old child .. that is the first time that I was exposed to the positively frightening dangers of a disease. Which probably explains why I vividly remember .. to this very day .. the one kid in my neighborhood that contracted polio and walked with a disabling limp for the rest of his life.
And so .. there is no doubt in my mind that .. during the early 1950's .. our generation was consumed by the fear of polio .. which began each year with whisperings about the dreaded .. fast approaching "polio season" .. widely believed to thrive in the summer months .. peaking in mid-to-late summer .. and .. just as mysteriously .. receding when cooler weather arrived.
Understandably .. parents were so fearful of polio .. that many .. including my mom .. tried her best to avoid taking her three rambunctious sons .. ages 15, 13 and 10 .. to "public" swimming pools, lakes or any area with open water .. which .. again with the benefit of hindsight .. I now believe to have been .. "urban myth" rumors .. as sources for contracting polio.
(We had an isolated area our parents absolutely hated .. we referred to it as the "swamps" .. it was 30 to 45 acres of vacant land .. much of it covered with 10 foot high reeds .. riddled with down-trodden secret paths .. where a sizeable "pond" had formed. This mostly hidden "pond" was great .. it froze in winter allowing us to roam the ice .. and .. it allowed us to play "pirate" on makeshift rafts in the summer months. The only problem was .. if someone slipped through the ice or fell into the water .. their clothes were immediately covered with what appeared to be small "red" insects .. and .. the unfortunate kid who had "fallen in" .. was immediately terrified that he had been exposed to "polio bugs".)
Those early memories remind me .. even today .. how fearful my generation was of contracting polio.
Indeed .. these vivid childhood memories probably explain why.. in 1955 .. somewhere around the age of 14 -15 .. I remember thinking that Dr. Salk's polio vaccine would be the greatest contribution to mankind that my generation would see in our lifetime.
That was then .. and .. my personal assessment of Dr. Salk's contribution .. is quite different today.
In those long ago days .. all males were subject to a "mandatory draft" .. requiring them to serve in our military forces .. and .. having voluntarily "pushed up my draft" .. at 19 years of age .. I distinctly remember having absolutely no fear as I and my fellow recruits .. dutifully walked through a virtual gauntlet of doctors on both sides of the aisle .. who administered vaccines in each arm as we passed by.
In retrospect .. we had no idea .. in 1960 .. what those vaccines were .. and .. absolutely no idea how many vaccines we received that day? I clearly remember one particular vaccine was administered by what looked like a "power drill" pressed against my arm .. excess white fluid shooting out of my arm onto the floor.
I also remember suffering a "low grade" temperature the following day .. and .. having my drill sergeant tell me and my fellow recruits suffering the same .. "get over it" .. because we had a full day of vigorous training ahead of us. Welcome to the US Army boys.
I received many more vaccines during my service .. for example .. just prior to my voluntary deployment to a "peaceful" Germany .. where I served eighteen months.
I only mention my "mandatory military service" to illustrate the absolute trust my generation had in our government .. especially as it applied to vaccines.
(I seriously doubt today's generation of volunteers in the military service has the same "absolute trust" in doctors and military commanders as we did .. primarily because the vaccines we received as G.I.'s serving in the 1960's were nowhere near the same .. nor .. the numbers .. as G.I.'s deploying for service in the Gulf War 35 years later .. which included .. cholera, live oral polio, typhoid fever, meningitis, pertussis, tetanus, diptheria, yellow fever, recombinant hepatitis B, influenza and two experimental vaccines .. anthrax and botulinium, as well as an experimental drug, pryidostigmine bromide.
And .. unlike the millions who served in the military .. prior to .. and .. during .. my generation .. there are literally tens of thousands of G.I.'s that deployed for the Gulf War who believe the numerous vaccines they received have caused them serious chronic illness .. defined as "Gulf War Syndrome" .. which includes symptoms such as chronic muscle and joint pain, rashes, headaches, disabling fatigue, memory loss, inability to concentrate, personality changes, diarrhea, hair loss and sleep disturbances.
In addition men and women volunteers in today's military were "ordered" to receive the Anthrax vaccine .. which created a bitter controversy among affected "volunteer" veterans .. which remains unresolved even today .. as evidenced by Gary Matsumoto's well documented .. excellent book .. "Vaccine A" .. clearly argues.
It is also disturbing to hear the rate of suicide among retired and active military forces has dramatically increased over the generations .. so much so .. latest statistics reveal there are 22 suicides a day .. or .. 1 every 65 minutes. These many suicides were unheard of in all previous generations .. including my own .. who served in our military forces. The obvious question .. why today's veterans?)
After discharge from the Army .. at 24 years of age .. my wife 21 years of age .. we married .. and .. I soon became a "rookie" member of the NYC Police Department.
Within 14 months of our marriage .. we had our first child .. a beautiful daughter .. followed by our equally beautiful son .. born within 14 months of his older sister. I have heard some describe the close age of my children as "Irish twins". In any event .. we bought a small house in the neighborhood we both grew up in .. close to extended families .. and .. we were .. literally .. living our generation's perception of the American dream.
Then came that dreadful night when our four year old daughter .. who we just put to bed a few hours prior .. began frantically calling us. As we entered her room .. we were stunned to see her and her bed-sheets covered in blood. She had gone to bed after suffering a nose bleed .. that we thought we had stopped .. and .. now we realized .. unbeknown to us .. she continued to bleed. Being a "rookie" police officer .. instinctively aware the situation was serious .. and .. this being a time prior to the establishment of the emergency 911 system .. .. I bundled her up .. put her in my car .. and .. personally delivered her to Kings County Hospital .. where I knew she would receive excellent "emergency care".
Having arrived at Kings County .. I distinctly remember arguing with the very young intern .. about the same age as myself .. whether or not she should stay overnight .. and .. him stopping all argument by informing me that .. as her father .. I had the right to take her home .. however .. as her doctor .. he believed she had Leukemia .. and .. she may not survive the night if I did not admit her immediately.
I remember entering the darkened children's ward where she would be staying and observing all the young children in that ward had the same "dark bruises and skin discolorations" that my daughter had been exhibiting the last six months or so. We had been dismissing those unexplained "discoloration bruises" and "rare nose bleeds" as being caused by normal childhood exuberance. Who knew?
I left the hospital that night at the lowest point in my life .. how in God's name did my perfectly healthy daughter .. contract Leukemia?
In retrospect .. unbeknownst to us .. as extremely young parents .. we had entered a world where the doctor .. like the one-eyed man among the totally blind .. was king .. whatever that doctor in the white coat said .. we did .. as our generation .. and .. the generations before us .. had been taught to do.
We eventually "learned" that our daughter did not .. thank God .. have Leukemia .. she had Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) .. and .. we also learned the word "Idiopathic" means exactly what it implies .. doctors are "idiots" for not knowing what causes it.
We were questioned relentlessly regarding our "family history" of blood disorders .. surely somewhere in our Irish/Italian ancestry .. there was someone who exhibited a similar blood disorder. Nope. None. And .. believe me .. we questioned relatives we hadn't spoken to in decades. After serious examination of our family history proved fruitless .. the best doctors we could find .. classified the cause of her condition in a single word .. that word being "bizarre".
After months in the hospital and extraordinary efforts to treat her with "steroids" .. which at that time were far more experimental than we had been led to believe .. causing physical and behavior changes we had not been warned of .. she had her spleen surgically removed.
Why .. we wondered .. after weeks of what we came to believe were unnecessary .. ineffectual .. experimental .. steroid treatments .. administered by the absolute best doctors we could find .. had they finally determined her platelets .. which are the immune response that causes clotting of the blood .. were being "inexplicably" destroyed by her spleen? (It wasn't until decades later that I read about a vaccine induced phenomenon "molecular mimicry") Once they determined her spleen was the problem .. they recommended surgical removal.
In addition .. we were warned the removal of her spleen would seriously impair her immune response to combat infections, viruses or bacteria .. for the rest of her life.
And .. so .. though my wife and I are both the third youngest of our families .. having a third child ourselves .. was never discussed .. it just didn't happened.
However, I do remember having a serious .. very encouraging conversation .. with my daughter's "new" pediatrician .. and .. he "promised" me that she would live a full life without her spleen .. and .. become a mother herself someday.
I also remember .. somewhere within a few years of my daughter's spleen being removed .. learning of a "new vaccine" specifically for people with "compromised immune systems" .. and .. when my wife excitedly called our "new" pediatrician to alert him that she would be bringing our daughter in for the vaccine .. he stated empathically .. "over my dead body will she ever receive another vaccine".
We were perplexed .. why would her "new" pediatrician make such a peculiar comment .. especially in light of her compromised immune system? Our failure to pursue his odd statement haunts us to this very day.
In any event .. thanks be to God .. his prediction that my daughter would eventually have children proved true .. and .. in 1990 .. our first grandson was born. As extremely proud grandparents in our late forties .. we eagerly anticipated the day when we would be granted the ultimate grandparent privilege of baby-sitting him.
Needless to say .. we were troubled when .. somewhere around the age of two .. he began suffering severe asthma attacks .. which were absolutely terrifying to witness. Suddenly .. as first-time grandparents .. having witnessed him struggle to breathe during an asthma attack that seemed to last for hours .. our greatly anticipated privilege of baby-sitting our beloved grandson was shaken by the realization we would be solely responsible for him should he suffer .. while in our care .. a life-threatening .. asthmatic attack.
(Which is why I have nothing but great admiration for today's teachers .. because .. God bless them .. I suspect every teacher in a class room today .. feels that same .. personal .. intimidating .. unanticipated responsibility .. for children with the same asthma affliction as our first grandson .. in addition to .. the growing numbers of children diagnosed with .. ADD/ADHD .. type 1 diabetes, peanut allergies .. or .. other chronic autoimmune disorders .. all requiring emergency action .. that appear far more common in today's generation .. then our own or our children's generation?)
As first time "concerned" grandparents of an asthmatic child .. (asthmatic and lactose intolerant even today .. 22 years later) .. it didn't take long before we began to take notice how prevalent "asthma" had become in children our grandson's age? Yes .. our generation had heard of asthma .. but .. inexplicably to us .. asthma seemed far more common in 1990 .. my grandson's generation.
Odd .. but .. we soon began reading reassuring articles in the most prestigious magazines .. children with asthma were more common because our homes had become "too clean" .. thereby denying children the opportunity to develop the "natural immunity" that prior generations acquired. Imagine that .. it was "cleanliness" that was responsible for the rising rates of asthma among our youngest children. Who knew?
Odd .. in retrospect .. our second grandchild .. the baby sister of our asthmatic grandson .. born in 1992 .. who also lived in that very same "clean house" .. was asthma free. Our third grandson born in 2001 .. grew up in different houses .. but is also .. thank God .. asthma free.
Eventually .. our son and his lovely wife had their first child .. our second grandson .. born in 1999 .. ten years after our first (asthmatic/lactose intolerant) grandson was born .. a full eight years after our first granddaughter arrived.
God bless him .. there were so many signs indicating he was a perfectly healthy .. normal developing child .. alert, responsive to stimulation .. who toddled on time .. and .. began developing rudimentary .. basic communication skills .. prior to the age of two.
For instance .. saying "more dat" at a family meal in a restaurant .. and .. all at the table who heard him broke out laughing .. or .. his ability to pick pop's car out of a parking lot full of similar .. otherwise indistinguishable .. white autos. While I kept trying to lead him to another white car .. he simply would not be deterred or distracted ... making me wonder .. how did he develop that uncanny ability to identify "pop's car"? Or .. even more so .. immediately aware of any unexpected deviation in the 32 mile route taken to visit pop's house?
And then .. inexplicably .. somewhere around the age of two .. our little guy suddenly "regressed" .. became unresponsive to stimulation .. lost basic communication skills he had already developed .. who suddenly began exhibiting bizarre behaviors .. such as .. holding his hands over his ears at the sound of a running faucet .. becoming fixated on a ceiling fan .. staring out a window but failing to react as grandma desperately tried to generate a response to the people and vehicles passing by .. stemming .. head banging .. sleepless nights .. chronic diarrhea .. on and on.
Unbeknown to our family .. the very same "bizarre" regressive behaviors that .. not a few hundred .. or .. a few thousand .. but .. literally .. tens of thousands of parents .. were simultaneously reporting. Who knew? Certainly not parents or grandparents.
At that time .. as I think of it now .. I had read numerous .. (annual?) .. articles by a man that I had the utmost respect and trust in .. Dr. Thomas Sowell .. wherein he warned against "stigmatizing" children who did not develop communication skills in a timely fashion by "labeling them slow". As evidence that slowly developing communication skills were not a source for worry .. he cited his own highly intelligent son who did not speak until somewhere around the age of five.
And so .. after being in self-denial for two years .. telling my lovely daughter-in-law .. his mom .. that our precious child may just be "slow" in developing his communication skills .. I could no longer deny that "something" was wrong. Eventually .. somewhere around the age of four .. at the cost of three thousand dollars to Yale University's esteemed Fred Volkmar .. our little guy was initially diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder .. Not Otherwise Specified (PDD/NOS) .. and .. was eventually .. diagnosed .. "autistic".
Imagine that .. $3,000 .. just to acquire a diagnosis of "autism" .. from an "expert" .. and .. even then .. it seemed odd .. that pediatricians had absolutely no education .. no experience .. or .. even more perplexing .. no clue .. to draw upon to make that diagnosis for themselves?
(Obviously .. our family and tens of thousands of families just like ours .. were reporting a new phenomenon .. "regressive autism" .. that pediatricians and doctors had never witnessed or experienced before .. making the claim autism has always been present .. and .. dismissing the ever increasing rates of autism because of "better diagnosing or a broader spectrum" .. ludicrous at best .. deliberately deceptive at worst.
In addition .. as recently as 2015 .. the very same pre-eminent "conservative" Dr. Sowell .. published a column in the NY Post .. wherein he again observed that parents ought not be too concerned about "late talking" children as early warning signs they are either "slow or autistic". Apparently, this self-proclaimed expert .. cannot distinguish .. even now .. as autism strikes 1 in 68 .. 1 in 49 boys .. the difference between a "late talking" child .. and .. the autistic child who had been "talking" .. but .. lost the ability to do so.)
Needless to say .. as grandparents .. we were .. once again .. crushed ... being confronted with a new disorder (autism) .. that our family and generation .. had never heard of before.
However .. we now had access to technology that was not available to us in 1969 .. 35 years ago .. when our daughter's bizarre ITP was diagnosed.
And so .. somewhere around 2004 .. determined to find out what happened to our precious grandson .. we began a desperate search of the inter-net for information .. and ..
in 2005 .. we stumbled upon David Kirby's "Evidence of harm" book .. wherein David raised the "common sense .. reasonable" .. question:
Was it possible that public health officials had dramatically increased the numbers of recommended and approved vaccines for children .. without .. at the same time .. calculating the unintended consequences of increasing our children's exposure to unsafe levels of the vaccine preservative ..Thimerosal (mercury)?
(From David Kirby's book .. page 45:
"Thimerosal was a major topic among much of the American public health bureaucracy in 1999 .. (the year my PDD/NOS .. autistic grandson .. was born). The CBR (FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research) officials had added up the total amount of mercury that children were receiving in their vaccines, and were disturbed .. (disturbed?) .. to find that small children were being exposed to much more mercury than anyone had imagined". )
(From Robert F. Kennedy's book "Thimerosal, Let the science speak".. page XXX:
"By 1999 (my grandson's year of birth) the potential mercury exposure by age two had more than doubled to 237.5 micrograms, with a two month old receiving 62.5 micrograms or 123 times the EPA's safe reference dose of 0.1 microgram per kilogram per day for methyl-mercury, a different, better-studied form or organic mercury than ethylymercury.)
And so .. in retrospect .. I firmly believe there has never been a more "trusting" generation of vaccines than our own .. our parents volunteered vaccinating us as children .. we volunteered vaccination for ourselves as members of the military .. as parents .. we voluntarily vaccinated our children .. and ..most importantly .. as grandparents .. we voluntarily urged our grandchildren be vaccinated.
God forgive us .. if we were mistakenly wrong to do so.
God forgive them .. because .. if they were "wrong" .. they "knew" they were wrong.