Place of Residence: Mystic, Connecticut
At age 21, Leslie was a healthy college student who was looking forward to starting her career as an elementary school teacher. She didn’t realize that chickenpox was not only a threat to children, but also to otherwise healthy adults. She caught chickenpox while student teaching and her illness was quite severe, suffering with blisters from the top of her head down to her knees. Leslie distinctly remembers her illness and wants others to know chickenpox can be serious, but thankfully can now be prevented with vaccination.
Leslie shares the story of how she suffered from chickenpox during her senior year of college.
How would you describe yourself? What are some of your favorite things to do?
I consider myself to be outgoing and friendly. Some of my favorite things to do include exercising, reading, and going to the beach. I’m an elementary school teacher, so my job keeps me pretty active and I love hanging out with my friends and family.
How did you first become sick and how were you feeling? At what point did you know your illness was serious?
I got chickenpox when I was student teaching during my senior year of college. I was actually exposed to chickenpox in the fourth grade classroom where I was student teaching. It was right around Thanksgiving when I first noticed blisters on my stomach. I started feeling run down, almost like I had the flu. After that, it progressed quickly and within three days I had blisters everywhere on my body from the top of my head down to my knees; it was awful. I remember I even had blisters in my throat, which made it excruciating to even swallow. I had intense itching, but my grandfather who was a physician told me not to scratch or else I could end up with scarring. I remember taking oatmeal baths to try and soothe my skin. I was really sick for about a week.
Were you vaccinated?
There was no vaccine for chickenpox (varicella) when I came down with it in 1992. Even though my parents took me to numerous “chickenpox parties”, I never came down with them as a child. It was only as an adult that I finally got sick when I was exposed while student teaching. Because of my experience, my children are fully vaccinated, including for chickenpox. And I will definitely be getting the shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine at age 50 because I realize that having chickenpox means you’re at risk for getting shingles.
What do you want others to know about vaccine-preventable diseases like chickenpox? What advice would you give them if they don’t think vaccines are important?
My advice is simple – get vaccinated! Vaccines save lives and help keep people healthy and safe. I feel it’s your civic duty to be vaccinated; it’s a social responsibility because the more people that are vaccinated, the less diseases can spread in our communities.
What are you doing to help raise awareness now?
As a teacher, I understand the value of science. I talk about vaccinations with my family and friends to help raise awareness about their importance.
Leslie shares her story to remind others that vaccines save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy.