Dear Readers: In an instance of synchronicity, my sister's ex-husband and the father of her two children died this morning after this column was posted.
Everybody dies, and everybody knows it, but even so it’s been a death-full year. Celebrities, friends, family, children with autism. Why pretend? I think most of us are just hoping to get out of it without any more demises, our own and anyone else’s.
This is why people sing Auld Lang Syne, I guess, both at the end of the year and at funerals. It’s letting go of the old and the painful and welcoming the new and the promising. It’s best accompanied by enough beer or wine or whatever to be truly mawkish or comfortably numb.
So we’re almost out with the old, and by tomorrow we’ll be focused on the new. But today let me bid a brief adieu and give a couple of people in my own life their due. The year for me began with the death of my sister Sally, a lovely and kind-spirited person who had her share of challenges and met them well. (And told jokes a lot better in the worst of circumstances than I do in the best.) As close as I felt to her while she was alive, and especially during the last couple of crappy years for her, I have not found myself thinking about her as much as I expected I would. Our relationship felt complete when she died, so maybe that’s it. But honestly I don’t know. Maybe this is how we go forward. I will send her good wishes at midnight. It does make me cherish my other wonderful sibling, Rosie, all the more, and I will be sending her wishes for a good year at the same time.
Now the year is ending with word that my childhood pediatrician, W. Robert Elghammer, has passed away. I have a lot of good memories of him back in my youth in Danville, Illinois – one of which is that he invariably ended my visit with telling my how incredibly healthy I was. I think he was compensating a bit for my single mother who worried about scrapes, strains and scratches that would not trouble, say, a father of five boys. One time I set the record for sit-ups at Garfield Grade School, something like 240 at one go, and my mother sent to me to Dr. Elghammer, who seemed more impressed by my record than the fact that my stomach was a bit sore.
That is not the point, however, because in later years Dr. Elghammer became a Dan! doctor, to my great delight. Here was a common-sense decent intelligent experienced reliable credible provider of medical care to children over the course of many years of changes who realized the vaccine program – which in my day consisted of polio, smallpox, and the DPT shot, had gone completely insane. He was not the only doctor to see it, but one of an early, honest and brave minority to say it.
A few years back when I wrote about it for the first time, I said:
This is the coolest fact I’ve come across in quite some time, because here we are hanging out on a limb saying we think there is a problem with the current CDC vaccination schedule, that it’s connected with autism, that an alternative schedule is a no-brainer, and that we need to be treating autism like the environmentally induced illness it really is.
And now I find that W. Robert Elghammer, the level-headed, mainstream voice of reason back in my hometown, is on the same wavelength. I found this out from a faithful reader of our site who posts as Tanner’s Dad and lives in Catlin, Ill., where my grandfather grew up on a farm. [Tim Welsh, now an AOA Contributing Editor who also alerted me to Dr. Elghammer’s death.]
The story ran July 4 -- how perfect -- in the Danville Commercial-News, where I worked in high school, during summers in college and for four years thereafter. Here’s an excerpt from the article.
“Right now, Elghammer believes strongly that the routine vaccinations young children receive may be responsible for the increase in autism. … ‘Immunizations may be fine for 99 percent of the population. I wouldn’t change anything during the first year, just follow the same routine. But I suggest everyone delay their children’s boosters until they’re two years old. By that time, autism will have manifested itself.”
That is a little unclear as reported, but it certainly reflects a concern about too many shots, too soon and autism. Back in the 1960s, he was the most reassuring and respected person you could imagine. I got the mumps, the measles, chickenpox and a fair number of nasty colds that in those days meant staying in bed and watching “I Love Lucy” reruns all day. But I got through them, and I didn’t get autism.
I looked up Dr. Elghammer on the Web just to make sure he hadn’t been in the slammer in the interim -- you know how the CDC-apologist fringe likes to start throwing stones at anyone who raises these kinds of issues. His record was clear; in fact, I found that just last year the State public health department recognized him “for his excellence in pediatric care and childhood injury prevention initiatives.” It was some obscure honor called THE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, people! Here’s one part of the citation that stands out:
“In 1956, Dr. Elghammer spearheaded the Vermilion County polio drive as its director. Volunteering to inoculate all of the county’s children, Dr. Elghammer administered polio vaccine to thousands of children through visits to schools around the county. The drive charged 25 cents per vaccination, which Dr. Elghammer collected and donated 100 percent of the drive proceeds to the two nursing schools in Danville.
“In 1971, Dr. Elghammer established the Intensive Care Nursery at Danville’s Lake View Hospital. He also designed the equipment and developed the procedures for the nursery including florescent lighting for infants with high bilirubin, catheterization procedures and laminar flow and hyperalimentation procedures for infants who required intensive IV nutrients.”
Wow. A doctor committed to kids and to a vaccine that was really needed and really worked. Now, based on a lifetime of experience, that doctor is saying, Watch out, we’ve got a problem.
And he’s not just any doctor. He’s my pediatrician! I am so psyched.
One more thing: "Tanner's Dad," who put me on to this story, tells me his son's last full sentence after getting his shots and regressing into autism six years ago July 4 was the following: "My name is Tanner. My name is Tanner.
Now, says Tanner's Dad, "After diet changes and supplements (Methyl B12 GFCF) he said his first words to me for Fathers day.'Hi Daddy'! It was beautiful yet sad."
It may be worth pointing out that Tanner's doctor these days is an old-school, well-respected, mainstream pediatrician: W. Robert Elghammer.
A P.S. for 2017: If you say what you think and stick to your guns and you are right, like my pediatrician and many of you who read AOA every week, sometimes even the president of the United States will come around to agreeing with you.
Here’s to a happy and new year to all of us!
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.