Embarrassed and shocked are the feelings that I am experiencing right now. In what seems to be the never ending story of my daughter’s “stomach bug,” I have more news; news that is a little embarrassing to admit, particularly considering that I write this blog. I received a call last week from our pediatrician telling me that not only did lab results indicate that my daughter’s hospitalization was due to rotavirus, but that she never received the recommended vaccinations she needed to protect her from it. I was beyond confused. What do you mean she wasn’t vaccinated? I have never missed an appointment so how was this possible? It turns out that the practice our doctor works in only recently started carrying rotavirus vaccines in the office. Our doctor explained that at a child’s two-month well-visit she always informed patients that the vaccine was not provided in the office, but gave a list of locations where the vaccinations (which are administered in three doses at two, four, and six months) were available. In all the hustle and bustle of a doctor’s appointment I honestly don’t remember having this conversation. Looking back, my son, who was also never vaccinated, contracted the illness first and within a day had passed it on to my daughter resulting in her four day hospitalization.
Right now I am truly embarrassed; embarrassed that I have a passion to spread the word about the importance of vaccine-preventable diseases and yet I failed to make sure that my own children received all of their recommended vaccinations. I am shocked; shocked that this actually happened to my family. No one ever anticipates being the one whose daughter, cousin, uncle, or mother contracts a serious illness, certainly not one that is preventable. I am testimony to the fact that vaccine-preventable diseases affect the unprotected.
So why am I sharing this information with you when in reality, I could simply push it under the rug and pretend like it never happened? I share it for two reasons. First, because I realize now more than ever that we are the most powerful advocates for not only our own personal health but for the health of our families. The relationship between a patient and a physician should be an equal partnership, and a partnership only works if both parties are on the same page. In regard to vaccinations, do your research. Know what and when vaccinations are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and if those guidelines are not being followed, be proactive in order to ensure that your family is protected from a long list of vaccine-preventable diseases. I did not realize that my children were not being administered a recommended vaccination. I simply assumed they were and my children paid the price. Secondly, if sharing my experience saves another family from going through the same experience, I gladly welcome the opportunity. The cases of pertussis (“whooping cough”), measles, and rotavirus that you hear about on the news don’t just happen to “other people.” They can happen to you and your family and have serious, if not life-threatening consequences. Take charge of your health and the health of those you love.