Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The face of childhood communicable disease.

From time to time, I get sucked into the mommy wars about vaccines.  "Are you pro-vaccines? or anti-vaccines?"  and then of course there are all of the stereotypes that go with each label. This was a big week for that since the new MMRV vaccine in Canada has show to increase the risk for tactile seizures in recipients. 

What tickles me to death though are the moms who eloquently write about how dire the childhood disease of measles, mumps, pertussis and chicken pox were - how children were at death's door or severely disfigured by these diseases.

So I pulled these photos out of my picture box.   This is a picture of me and my little sister from the early 1960s.  We both got measles, mumps, and chicken pox and I'm pretty sure I also had pertussis although my mom had a different name for it at the time. I remember that distinctive cough.
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I remember us both being covered with rashes and spots, trying not to itch, and standing naked in front of my grandmother sitting on the couch as she tried to make sure she covered every inch of our afflicted bodies with lotion to ease our suffering.

I also remember getting to sleep in her bed while we recovered and getting to eat a lot of ice cream and watch a lot of t.v. as well as looking at the Childcraft books in my grandma's room.

When I mention that I had all of those diseases to young moms at these web sites, they either don't believe me or they tend to think I was one of the few survivors of the plague.  I assure them that not only did I survive these infections, but so did my sister, and so did every other kid we went to school with back then.  (I only know of one kid who ever went to the hospital for these types of diseases and that was due to a reaction to the small pox vaccination that scarred us all for life.  As anyone my age to show you that scar; it was the branding of my generation. )
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Getting these childhood diseases was a rite of passage, just part of growing up.  Interestingly, the very old and very Amish Pathway Readers book for second grade features a story about a little girl named Rachel who can't go to the zoo because she comes down with the measles.  She stays at home until she gets better.  The wait is on for her siblings to get it too!

Just as Rachel and her family survived and thrived after the measles, sis and I did just fine as well.  We finished school and went on to have productive and relatively healthy lives. In fact, we may be better off for it.  I haven't had a flu shot in over 20 years and other than a couple of colds, I'm pretty healthy.

For the record, I work with my pediatrician to selectively vaccinate and I appreciate his willingness to work with me on this.  But I really wish my kids had had a chance to get real life-long immunity from the actual short-lived childhood diseases.

Want to read a great post about the risks of the vaccine vs. the disease with lots of other informative links - the mom at LivingWhole.Org blog does a great job with that!

2 comments:

  1. I had the measles, and am not immune from them. My sister was "miscarried" after my mom got a second bout of the measles from us.
    My good friend is severally handicapped because of polio. My good friend's husband landed in the hospital on a ventilator over chicken pox. I lost two great uncles to the flu In 1918.
    I think most people just accepted death and disease when we were young. A child died, it was sad- but people went on. We didn't worry that our grandmas died of different types of cancer, old people were supposed to die. "God's will" and "they are in a better place" was the common word.
    As I sit with my grandsons through their inoculations, I have had some amazing discussions with doctors. Stronger strains are present. Children are exposed to world travelers. My daughters are well read and explore every argument - but they are getting (most) of the shots.
    Both girls denied the silver stuff at birth. Neither is getting Hep shots until school. All shots are spread out. My granddaughter ear is not getting chicken pox, grandsons are. Seems reasonable to try to prevent the death of your child.

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  2. I'm not saying don't vaccinate. My own kids are selectively vaccinated. What I am saying is that when it comes to health care, everything in modern medicine comes with risks and benefits. As health care consumers we need to understand that, and also realize that only person responsible for our health is us.

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