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Posts tagged ‘Guest Mom’

Guest Mom Andrea: I’ve Read All the Research and I Vaccinate

This is a guest post by Andrea Clement-Johnson who lives with her husband and three children, Breanne, 12, Hayley, 9, and Caleb, 7, in Wellington, CO. She is the Health Education Supervisor at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment in Fort Collins, CO.  The whole family loves music, hiking, sports and animals, including our two yellow labs Jackson and Archie.

When I was a child, my cousin, Nadine, died in our home while she was visiting us. She was only two. Later we found out she had died from complications of Haemophilus influenzae, type B (Hib). Years later, I learned that a vaccine had been developed for Hib and could have saved her life.

Though I did not really understand vaccination at that point, I remember being struck that my cousin’s death could have been prevented if she had received a vaccine.

After college, I happily entered the health education field.  I got married and had two beautiful daughters. We were so happy when our son, Caleb, joined us and became the icing on the cake. However, it was quickly evident that Caleb was different from my girls. I noticed that he tantrumed very early and he was always difficult to soothe. However, I dismissed the differences as unique qualities of my son.

As a toddler, the communication and behavioral differences became more pronounced. I took Caleb to his pediatrician and insisted that I needed someone to tell me what was happening. Once Caleb was fully evaluated by a team of experts, we received the official diagnosis of autism.

I immersed myself in reading everything I could about autism. One of the first websites I stumbled upon indicated that vaccines were a “likely culprit” contributing to the high rates of autism. I was initially surprised. I had remembered hearing other moms talk about a fear of poisons being injected into their children. I remember thinking at the time that this was silly, recalling my cousin’s tragic death. I had no idea how pervasive the autism and vaccine debate was or how much this would impact my life.

I started looking at more information about autism and vaccination.  I read stories that parents shared about their typically developing children who, following immunization, were diagnosed with autism. This was perplexing. I didn’t want to doubt any parent of a child with autism. I investigated thimerosal, schedules, and I even learned how immunizations worked.

I read all the research, listened to the concerns from parents who are looking for an answer. Through my research, I began to see there was no evidence to support vaccines causing autism or any other childhood developmental disorder.

I understand that because of the complexities surrounding autism, and the variety in onset and degree of severity, it’s difficult to accept unknowns. I learned that my thoughts, though based on extensive research and good intentions as a mom, are not always enough to sway those people who see things differently, but I continue to make my feelings known about vaccination. I’ve come to learn that if I don’t convince a parent to see things “my” way, so be it. At least I may encourage those parents still weighing their options to consider talking to their provider or to learn more before delaying or avoiding immunizing their children. Through my experiences as a parent of a child with autism and a health educator, I feel I can confidently say that I have looked at the issue through both lenses. I strongly support immunization as one of the best choices a parent can make for their children.

I became so impressed with immunization that I eventually took a position as a manager with the Wyoming Immunization Section. My appreciation for and belief of timely, appropriate immunization across the lifespan has continued. I’m so fortunate to continue working in immunization in my current position in Larimer County as a Health Education Supervisor.

Like most parents of a child with special needs, I often take a path that has many uncertainties, which can create fears. One thing I don’t fear is that vaccination causes autism. The fears I have related to immunization are fears that choosing a delayed schedule or choosing not to immunize could cause a child to become infected with a preventable illness, causing unnecessary suffering or death for them and other vulnerable individuals.

Although autism would not have been the path I would have chosen for Caleb, he has been my greatest lesson about truly meaning it when you say you only want for your child to happy and to have a place in the world.  My son makes regular, fabulous progress and he is a beautiful, loving, wonderful child who is still the icing on my cake!

Guest Mom JoAnn: Getting Poke’d

Welcome a lighthearted approach to vaccines from Guest Mom JoAnn Rasmussen

JoAnn Rasmussen writes at The Casual Perfectionist and is also the assistant editor at Mile High Mamas, the Denver Post’s parenting blog and online community.  JoAnn and her husband have a four-year old daughter named Claire.

JoAnn is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, but doesn’t consider herself to be the stuffy, up-tight kind. She’s more of a casual perfectionist, hence the name of her website. She tries her hardest to focus on the positive, learn from the negative, and laugh at both. In fact, she is a firm believer in the notion that if you haven’t laughed today, you weren’t really paying attention.

I’ll never forget Claire’s first trip to the doctor’s office for a shot she would actually remember.  It was October 2007, right in the midst of flu shot season, and I wasn’t sure how things would go.  At 22-months old, Claire was exponentially more mobile than she was last time.  We’d always been really lucky when it came to shots, so I was hoping this time would be no different.

When Claire was a baby, I never hesitated in getting her fully vaccinated on the schedule that our pediatrician had recommended.  As a mother, it tugged at my heart to see the momentary flash of pain in her eyes, but it was quickly replaced by her beautiful smile, and I knew it was worth it.

I was so thankful to have access to these vaccines.  The thought of protecting my child from the deadly diseases that had plagued my relatives only a generation before was worth it.  Knowing that by getting my child vaccinated, she wouldn’t contract and pass along one of those preventable diseases to someone younger or unprotected was worth it.

Still, this was going to be the first time she’d actually remember getting a vaccine, and I wanted it to go well.

That morning, I set the scene.  “Guess where we get to go today! We get to go to the doctor’s office, and he’s going to give you a flu shot. He’s going to give you a shot in the arm. And, it will feel like a poke!” I said as I lightly pinched her upper arm. “Momma’s going to get a flu shot too, and she’s going to get a poke in the arm, just like Claire!”

“The doctor’s gonna poke my arm!” she said excitedly. “The doctor’s gonna poke Momma’s arm!” She didn’t understand that there could be pain involved with a poke in the arm, but I let her run with it. Any chance to go on an adventure was exciting, and I was hoping to use that excitement to my advantage.

When we got to the office, she didn’t want to wait for me to fill out the paperwork, and she headed down the hallway with one of the little chairs. “I’m gonna go see the doctor! He’s gonna poke my arm!” she yelled as she pushed the chair through the doorway.  Luckily, I was able to retrieve her before she got too far.

Claire’s excitement was nearly as contagious as the toys over on the “sick kid” side of the waiting room, and this was quite entertaining for the receptionists. They certainly didn’t see this every day.

Because this was a “Flu Shot Clinic,” there were lots of people in line with us.  “The doctor’s gonna poke my arm!” Claire told a little girl waiting in line in front of us.  Claire didn’t understand why this was so upsetting to the little girl who now had a look of shocked panic on her face. “Oh yes. We’re really excited about getting our flu shots,” I said to the little girl and her mother. What else could I do?

Then, it was our turn. The nurse called, “Next!” and Claire dragged me into the room. “Hurry, Momma! Hurry! The doctor’s gonna poke my arm!”

I got my shot first, and then it was Claire’s turn. It took three seconds, and she didn’t even flinch! She was all smiles and even thanked the nurse. The nurse gave her a big yellow smiley face sticker. As Claire was clutching her newest prized possession she said, “The doctor poke’d my arm! The doctor poke’d Momma’s arm! I got a sticker!!”

Over the years, our experience has remained the same, and I am glad that the hardest part about getting a vaccine is containing our excitement while waiting in line.