Grief · Musings

Vaccinating in the name of…

No disrespect intended to Rage Against the Machine, but I need to get this off my chest, because I have been stewing on this since I got the call a month ago today from my aunt that I needed to get down to Baton Rouge as soon as possible. I literally dropped everything in my life, threw some random clothes in a suitcase, and left on one of the next flights to New Orleans thanks to my husband’s ingenuity and an understanding boss.

My mom and I on my graduation day for my bachelor’s degree.

I had just seen my mom the week prior. She was doing well, getting around fine and enjoying life. Now, she was in a hospital bed fighting for her life.

Yes, she had cancer. Not an “easy” case of it either. But she was doing pretty well on her treatment, a combination of immunotherapy (Opdivo) and targeted therapy (Cabometyx – yep, my beloved Cabo). Which is why she couldn’t get her flu shot.

Which is why she relied on other people being responsible and getting their vaccinations to protect her and others who can’t get vaccines.

Yeah, I’m talking about herd immunity.

When I got to Baton Rouge, she looked as if she’d aged 20 years since I’d last seen her. The doctors and nurses were in disbelief when I showed them pictures of her from a party she’d thrown at her house just earlier in the month. It wasn’t the same woman laying in the hospital bed.

Her body was wracked with the flu and pneumonia, and she had developed sepsis. She wavered between consciousness and confusion from her low oxygen levels, but we at least had a couple of days to visit and say all the things you never want to tell your parents because you don’t want them to go. The doctors did everything they could to avoid it, but ultimately they had to intubate her, putting her on life support. Her white blood cell count was so low from the treatment that it was almost nonexistent, which is why despite all the antibiotics and antivirals they gave her and a relatively easy to treat illness under normal circumstances, she just kept declining quickly. When they tried waking her up from the sedative, she had suffered a stroke and never regained consciousness. A week after I arrived in Baton Rouge, I had no choice but to consent to the doctors discontinuing life support.

I can’t begin to describe the grief and pain that overtook my body and soul that afternoon. There are no words for it. Primal, guttural, anguished crying and screaming. For all I know, the whole floor heard my audible grief.

You may be asking what this has to do with vaccines. I don’t know if my mom became ill from an unvaccinated person, but she likely did. I don’t know if she would have gotten sick anyway, but maybe she wouldn’t have. To be honest, her cancer prognosis was not good – the tumor spread had slowed, but not ceased. I maybe still would have lost her this year regardless.

But I would have had more time with her. My husband and kids would have had more time. We all would have had more time.

And the odds are, I most likely just lost my mom because someone decided he/she or his/her child didn’t really need the flu shot anyway.

Guess what? You maybe didn’t think you needed the flu shot, but I definitely still needed my mom.

The flu vaccine and other vaccines aren’t about your ability to fight off diseases. It’s not about your essential oils or your vitamins or your elderberry syrup. I say this as someone who uses essential oils, but I don’t use it in place of evidence-based medical intervention.

Oh, and the autism thing? First of all, that’s been debunked. The “scientist” who wrote the report was found to be a fraud. Secondly, as the parent of a teenager with autism, I find it incredibly offensive that you believe you’d rather your child be dead and/or kill someone else than face a minute chance of developing autism.

Moral of the story? Vaccinate yourself, and vaccinate your kids. Don’t catch me with your “Well, but…” arguments or your “scientific news” blog page that some dude wrote while sporting a tinfoil hat on his head.

I’m not here for it. Because my mom is no longer here, and that’s a hell that’s going to last me much longer than this flu season.

One thought on “Vaccinating in the name of…

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