Ian and Linda Williams were confident about their choice not to vaccinate their children. But a recent health scare has hurled them into a 180 turn on immunizations, and they want to warn everyone they can: Not vaccinating nearly killed their child. When their 7-year-old son Alijah got a small cut on the bottom of his foot, they thought it was just an ordinary injury that would heal. But that cut turned into a nightmare that landed Alijah in intensive care. Alijah's foot was infected with tetanus bacteria, a serious infection that can put a child's life in danger.
"The mistake that we made was that we underestimated the diseases and we totally overestimated the adverse reactions," Ian Williams admits. And those adverse reactions were horrific.
First Alijah came down with a stroke on one side of his face (toxins had begun to attack his nerves). A couple days later he was in intense pain, with cramps spreading all across his face. The cramps and the pain spread throughout his body. Once he was in intensive care, doctors induced a coma to relieve the escalating symptoms. Alijah was put on life support and heavily sedated for three weeks.
The Williams felt horrible. Their decision had caused their son so much pain -- and threatened his life. How could they have been so wrong?
Linda had been set against vaccinations from the beginning. Ian, a scientist, decided to do his own research. What he found convinced him that vaccinations were dangerous and benefited pharmaceutical companies more than children. But as soon as the Williams found out that their son was suffering from tetanus, they had their other two children vaccinated against all childhood diseases. And then they started speaking out about their experience.
I feel like we've hit a turning point in the vaccination debate. The connection between MMRs and autism seems to have been debunked. But that trust between doctors and parents -- or, more accurately, between drug manufacturers and parents -- has been broken. Vaccinations still make a lot of parents nervous and skeptical. But most of us aren't quite ready to ditch them altogether, so we go with delayed schedules, or we ask our doctors a thousand questions.
I have friends who work in infectious diseases around the globe, and they take immunizations seriously. They save lives. But there must be some balance that gives parents a greater sense of control and arms us with trustworthy information. No need to throw out vaccination altogether -- but maybe if we avoid extreme positions, we can protect our kids' health from both diseases and vaccination schedules that don't work for everyone.
Do you trust the information about vaccinations that you can find on the Internet?
Image via Daniel Paquet/Flickr