Have you ever gotten that phone call, whether it’s in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, that makes your heart just stop. A “bad news” phone call. I’ve received a couple of those, but nothing can prepare you for the phone call that your child is terribly sick and has a 5% chance of survival. That’s what happened to me, when my son was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, as a healthy 20 year college honor student. The words are such a shock, that you really can’t even comprehend what is being told to you. This happens to many families, not just mine, and when I find out that a child is sick or dying from a vaccine-preventable disease, I just get sick to my stomach. There is no magic pill to prevent life’s tragedies, but vaccines are miracles to me. Vaccines have saved millions of lives, and I urge all parents to make sure that their children are up to date on all of the vaccines – whether infant or adolescent. Parents and grandparents need to make sure they’re up to date on vaccines as well. With better immunization update, we can prevent more of these “bad news” phone calls.
This week a graduate student at George Washington University passed away from meningococcal disease. His family, instead of planning for the holidays and wrapping presents, are planning a funeral. I just keep thinking about the family. I don’t know them; I don’t know their names. What I do know is their heartache. It just resonates inside me, as the grief of losing my own son to meningitis will never go away.
I don’t know if the strain this young man had was vaccine-preventable, if he had been vaccinated, or what the details are. I just know that he suffered, and it tears me to pieces. I hope all families will make sure that their children are vaccinated for all vaccine-preventable diseases. Some diseases are rare, but they will strike. Look at my family, and look at the family of this young man. Too many precious lives are being lost to vaccine-preventable diseases.
by Trish Parnell
Even so, there were no major outbreaks until the 1900s.
Ironically, it was the increase in sanitary living conditions that provided a way for polio to devastate communities. Prior to the improved sanitation in wealthier countries, babies were exposed to polio while still protected by their moms’ antibodies. This allowed them to fight off infection and develop immunity.
However, during this time when we were cleaning up our act, but before we had vaccines to protect us against polio, the older kids and adults who’d lost their moms’ antibodies were unprotected and were vulnerable targets for the poliovirus.
Franklin Roosevelt is a famous example. He was 39 years old when he became infected in 1921, and he spent the rest of his life working to support polio research, in addition to being President of the United States.
Polio vaccines were introduced in the U.S. in the ‘50s and ‘60s, halting the episodic surges of infection experienced in this country.
My teenager was vaccinated against polio when the oral vaccine was still being used in this country. I remember warnings from her pediatrician about the need to be careful during diaper changes and to always wash my hands afterward.
I hesitated when she told me about the polio vaccine she wanted to give my daughter. Polio was not a common infection in the world in the 1990s, and I debated if the risk of vaccination was worth it. After all, 144 of the 152 cases of polio in the U.S. between 1980 and 1999 were caused by the live oral polio vaccine, not the wild poliovirus.
In the end, I had her vaccinated because I felt it was the safer choice for her and those around her. When it comes to eradication of a disease, we don’t stop vaccinating when it’s mostly gone. We keep vaccinating until it’s long gone.
Trish Parnell is the Director of Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs).
As many of you know, the Texas legislature recently passed a law requiring all college students to receive a meningococcal vaccine before the start of classes this fall. This has been an important step in protecting our young adults from a deadly disease. You can then imagine my outrage to see the following article in the Richland Chronicle:
For students who have taken a break in the fall from school, going back in the spring could be a headache.
In addition to filling out all the paper work and waiting in the infamous line to talk to an adviser, students will have to deal with another obstacle: the meningitis shot.
Contrary to the title of this article, if you ask a parent like me, who lost a college-aged son to meningitis, there is nothing “pricey” or “frustrating” about the meningitis vaccine. If only I had known, my son would be alive today. You think rare diseases aren’t going to hit your family. That’s what I thought — this disease would happen to someone else. But, it didn’t, and I watched my son suffer for 26 days.
Most insurance companies will pay for this vaccine, and for those who cannot afford it, the state recently announced students can receive it for free at health departments and clinics. Even if you had to pay for the vaccine out of pocket — with the years of protection you receive, it’s just pennies a day.
I would spend all the money I have for the opportunity to go back and vaccinate. Don’t take a chance with your health.
One of our frequent contributors and a good friend, Lori Buher, wrote about a wonderful event over at Mother Talkers: the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s (CAF) Triathlon in San Diego.
From the sidelines, I marveled at the grit and determination so many of these athletes possess and reflected on the journey that brought me to this point. As the mother of a child who entered the world of disabilities as a teenager, it was heartwarming to witness the support these challenged athletes receive.
My son Carl, who was with me in San Diego, contracted meningococcal disease–sometimes called bacterial meningitis–at age 14. He lost both legs below the knees as a result. Before this he was an athlete, playing both football and basketball.
I’ve been scouring the holiday ads for a present for my precious 3 year old granddaughter. A friend mentioned a tiara, and it was a perfect idea! Chloe is a doll and a little princess, so a tiara is perfect. Actually, Chloe has all of the important things already – parents who love her to pieces, grandparents who love her, and lots of family to love her as well. She also has parents who make sure she is up-to-date on all vaccinations. Even though the meningitis vaccine is not recommended for routine vaccination for 3 year olds, her parents made sure that Chloe received the vaccine anyway. Why? Well, why not? My older son died from this disease, and if there is a safe, effective vaccine, already licensed by the FDA for ages 9 months – 55 years of age, then why take a chance? So what if the numbers say that there aren’t a lot of cases in her age group. There will be some, and why should we take a chance? I hope parents reading this will make sure that their children and grandchildren are as protected as can be, so that our little princes and princesses can grow up healthy and happy. Please visit the National Meningitis Association Web site at www.nmaus.org for more information on meningitis and www.preteenvaccines.org for information on adolescent vaccines.