Maggie’s story, as told by her father and board-certified pediatrician Dr. Tim Jacks.
Following is a copy of Dr. Jacks message written on CaringBridge. He wrote this in 2015 when his young child Maggie was exposed to measles at the same time she was fighting cancer. Maggie survived, but it was a scary experience for her family.
I have a number of strong feelings surging through my body right now. Towards my family, I am feeling extra protective like a papa bear. Towards you, unvaccinating parent, I feel anger and frustration at your choices.
By now we’ve all heard of the measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland. Or more accurately, originated from an unvaccinated person that infected other similarly minded vacationers. I won’t get into a debate about the whole anti-vaccine movement, the thimerosol controversy (no longer even used in childhood vaccines), or the myth that MMR causes autism (there are changes in autistic brain chemistry prior to birth).
It once was widespread in the US. It is now considered ‘eliminated’ in the US (not continually circulating in the population—only contracted through travel out of country).
Measles is highly contagious (90 percent infectious) and can survive airborne in a room and infect someone two hours later. Another fun fact is that measles is transmittable before it can be diagnosed—four days before the characteristic rash appears.
“Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will die.” That sounds fun!
Okay. Calm down, self.
Two doses provides protection that can be confirmed with blood titers. My wife is in this group.
They have low blood titers and are not protected against measles.
If exposed, this group will likely get the illness. I am in this group. I was thankfully not exposed.
My son, Eli, is 10 months old. He is too young to received the MMR vaccine and thus has no protection. Whether by refusal or because they are too young, exposed unvaccinated children have a 90 percent chance of getting measles.
These are children who can’t be vaccinated. Children who have cancer. Children who are immunocompromised. Maggie before being diagnosed with cancer. Children who are truly allergic to a vaccine or part of a vaccine (i.e anaphylaxis to egg). These children remain at risk. They cannot be protected, except by vaccinating people around them.
She has had multiple rounds of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures, and surgery to implant her port. She has been admitted six times since diagnosis and spent over three weeks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital (including Halloween and New Years). She had been immunized fully, but we are unable to immunize her further until after treatments end. Her treatment will prayerfully end shortly after her 5th birthday, in January 2017.
Eli and Maggie were exposed to measles on January 21. Despite the treatment noted, they could start showing signs of measles any time from now through February 11 (21 days post exposure). After a new blood test, both my wife and I were found to be immune to measles, but the children will remain in isolation until February 11.
Unvaccinating parent, thanks for screwing up our three-week “vacation” from chemotherapy. Instead of a break, we get to watch for measles symptoms and pray for no fevers (or back to the hospital we go). Thanks for making us cancel our trip to the snow this year. Maggie really wanted to see snow, but we will not risk exposing anyone else. On that note, thanks for exposing 195 children to an illness considered ‘eliminated’ from the US. Your poor choices don’t just effect your child. They affect my family and many more like us.
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