Real-Life Experience Makes This Mom a Vaccine Champion

Dec 18, 2019 9:00 AM ET

I grew up in a Detroit, Michigan suburb and enjoyed a great childhood. I had loving parents and was surrounded by extended family. We spent a lot of time with cousins, aunts, and uncles, and we always got together for the holidays. Those who know this about me are surprised when I tell them that I also suffered through multiple preventable diseases growing up.

As someone who suffered from childhood diseases, today’s debate on vaccinations baffles me. I see news of children who get pertussis, whooping cough and measles and I think if they had a chance to get vaccinated, why weren't they? Because a childhood disease is such a horrific thing to go through, as a parent, why put your child at risk?

I was eight years old when I got the mumps, and I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sick for three weeks. The hardest part was missing school because I loved it so much. It was very painful. I couldn't eat because my glands were so swollen, and I had difficulty drinking water. Eventually, my parents had to take me to the emergency room to be treated for dehydration.

Today, I suffer from auditory nerve damage to my right ear. Hearing loss is a frequent complication of mumps, making it very difficult to receive and interpret sound. It’s made both my personal and professional life more challenging. I can remember how difficult it was after I recovered from the disease because I had to teach myself to hear again, to interpret sounds and understand speech, both of which I still struggle with today. It was a very scary and frustrating experience to go through at such a young age.

My parents never actually made the decision not to vaccinate me. I was already a teen by the time measles, mumps and rubella vaccines became widely used in the 1970s. While the mumps vaccine dates back as early as the 1940s, the most effective mumps vaccine didn’t come out until the late 1960s. Even then, it wasn't really approved for routine use until 1977.

As a real-life example of what can happen when you don't vaccinate, I’m a strong advocate for vaccines today. Vaccines have been proven to be very safe – so why take the chance? Choosing not to vaccinate puts your child at risk of contracting childhood diseases and experiencing the debilitating symptoms that may result in permanent impairments or disabilities. 

When faced with someone who questions vaccines, I tell them the following: Trust your medical professional and have real conversations about vaccines. Be persistent and make sure you track your child’s vaccination schedule. Visit the CDC website and learn more about childhood diseases and the vaccines that are available to prevent them. Please consider the information and facts these resources provide before you say “no” to vaccines. You owe it to your child to do everything that you can to make sure that they have a healthy life.