Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Be An Educated Parent: My Take on the Vaccine Debate

Well since the latest news story last night I feel prompted to put out my two cents on the whole vaccine debate. Let me be clear to anyone reading, it is no debate where I'm concerned, I am an avid PRO VAX momma.

That being said let me elaborate somewhat. There are a variety of excuses that the anti-vax folks rely on.
1: Vaccines Can Cause Autism.
2: There are awful horrid ingredients in the vaccines that make them completely unsafe to be giving to our children with developing immune systems.
3. Diseases we vaccinate for have been eradicated for years so there is no need to use them.
4: Extended breastfeeding provides more/better immunity than any vaccine
5. There are plenty of "natural" ways to keep the body healthy, vaccines are unnecessary and dangerous.

I will address each briefly because I believe that it is the responsibility of parents to do their OWN research into the topic. Get out your scholarly medical journal articles, get your peer reviewed double blind studies, read up on anatomy & physiology, consult some pharmacology info basics (trust me anything beyond will be WELL above your head), talk to scientists, pediatricians, neurologists, understand how the CDC operates, etc. As I say in most things including politics, be an EDUCATED decision maker. Don't end up looking your kid in the eye someday when these ignorant decisions come back to bite you in the ass and say 'I'm sorry I chose xyz for you and didn't really look into it ahead of time.'

I'll provide various links in my explanations, consider them the cliff notes for the aforementioned research that parents should be doing. They put things in simple basic terms but realize there is a wealth of info that you could delve into with any of them that would provide a much greater understanding of the material being presented.

If you've been living under a rock please do us all a favor and consult Google. Yes it's that well known by now that there is absolutely NO link that has been demonstrated between vaccines and autism or ASD. In fact taking it one step further there has been no link found between thimerosol and ASD either. The best part of all of this is that the guy that stemmed off this entire shift toward the anti-vaccine movement, the founder of the vax = autism movement was found to actually have falsified the entire observational report for money. That's right, he recruited kids (of which there were 12... 12 children, now that's one heck of a sample group to dictate consequences for the WORLD population!) that had already demonstrated autistic behaviors and then lied about when these kids had received their MMR vaccine to try and show a correlation between the two. Why? Because he got paid to show such a correlation when these families were compensated. So THIS my Dears is where the entire anti-vax movement stems from (at least the widely publicized version that got celebrities like Jenny McCarthy onboard and spread like wildfire). This is a great article that elaborates on this debate.

2. There are awful horrid ingredients in the vaccines that make them completely unsafe to be giving to our children with developing immune systems.
Ok onto the whole additive and preservative argument. Yes there are ingredients that are used in vaccine preparations that can be twisted around to look like death in a vile that we're shooting our kids up with. As you'll read over and over again the amounts of these ingredients are considered "trace" or "undetectable" for the vast majority. You'll hear people rant and rave over the precise levels and how they really are dangerous in trace amounts especially because we give kids these vaccines several times over their lifetime. I won't get into specifics here because it is a LOT of info. I prefer not to spend my day arguing over ethylmercury vs. methylmercury. Or get into the details of hydrophilic tendencies in excretory mechanisms effecting systemic toxicity. I wont get into the concept of cellular immunity and T cell and B cell activation, or antigen processing, or immunoglobulins. Again, be an educated decision maker... educate yourself.

I will say that there are preservative free vaccine preparations that eliminate a lot of this controversy however they may still be labeled as such when there are trace amounts of these ingredients present. The bottom line is that these "additives" are necessary to create the vaccine, to inactivate the viruses, to keep the viles free from bacteria so that our kids don't die from staph infections after injection (which happened in Australia). You can read all about this from the FDA and various places, they explain things a bit further.

For the aluminum phobes, these are a few good places to start. First off know that not all vaccines have aluminum salts in them. Second, know that aluminum is found all over the place, in our water, in our food, even breastmilk contains 25 mcg per liter folks... take that one in for a moment. Studies have been done all over, reviewed a billion times, and as the exhaustive studies in Rome showed '"Scare stories on aluminum-containing vaccines are not supported by evidence."

A quote that resonates with me and my vaccine views is from Dr. Paul Offit, in response to misinformation by Dr. Bob Sears, he stated "By creating the notion of zero tolerance, Sears fails to educate his readers that the dose makes the poison, that it is the amount of a potential toxin and not its mere presence that counts."

Water can be toxic folks. The take away from this should be that a can of tuna fish has a dozen times more mercury in it than any flu shot ever will. We should be more concerned with aluminum in our drinking water and deodorant than the aluminum salts in the vaccine additives. Even the ominous formaldehyde, that people associate with cancer and dead people, is produced in our own bodies during energy production processes. We have to stop skimming the surface of these things and delve deeper, remember the old adage never judge a book by it's cover. And remember what the vaccines are FOR. Stop getting caught up on the falsified propaganda of ill effects and remember that contracting Polio, Diptheria, Tetanus, Rubella, Haemophillus Influenza, etc etc etc is a much scarier prospect.

I'll tell you something that scares me much more than vaccine additives is GMO's. We should be much more concerned with this and the diseases and cancer et all resulting from the food we consume every day than we should be about flu shot preparations.

3. Diseases we vaccinate for have been eradicated for years so there is no need to use them.
Ok yes people really believe this. Shocking I know. It's like the fact that several other countries black out the Holocaust in history books and say that it never happened and it is all US propoganda (no really, this does happen).

So let me say it for those poor naive individuals. PEOPLE STILL DIE FROM THESE DISEASES. They are not eradicated, they are still a very real threat to civilization, moreso now with the anti-vax movement. Right now we're seeing an EPIDEMIC of whooping cough and this is the tip of the iceberg. There is a reason these diseases are ignored and the focus is now on ridiculous things like .03 ppm of mercury in a vile of flu shot. If people were still suffering and dying of these things every day NO ONE would give a rat's ass about aluminum salts. I encourage everyone to go ahead and pull out the history books and remind themselves of the consequences of the diseases we're trying to prevent with the vaccines.

Want to see a baby dying of a systemic chicken pox infection... go ahead take a look... take a look at the consequences that so many BLINDLY ignore by jumping on this bandwagon.  It's graphic, sure. Sad, absolutely. But all too often ignored and thought of as a thing of the past...

There are many more photos to review for vaccine preventable diseases. Please take a moment to see what can and still does happen today with these diseases that are far from gone. Outside of death there are dozens of consequences.

Mental Retardation
Congenital Heart Defects
Brain Damage
etc, etc, etc

Want to see something very scary, go ahead and research what's happening with Tuberculosis... and multiple drug resistant strains. 

4: Extended breastfeeding provides more/better immunity than any vaccine
I'm not here to speak about extended breastfeeding. Lord knows that horse has been beaten to death! You want to boob feed your kid til they're 10, go ahead. Is breast milk good for the immune system in infants, yes. Does it provide certain types of immunity, yep. Does this mean we should package it up and sell it in the grocery store to be consumed right alongside our OJ in the morning... no. It does not exempt one from needing vaccines to prevent certain diseases. So don't be naive and use this as an excuse to delay and delay and delay your vaccination schedules. In fact there are plenty of MD's out there that recommend stopping breast milk consumption to allow vaccines to do their job as some studies have shown that breast milk can make the vaccines less effective. Now I don't subscribe to this idea... not enough evidence to date, but again breastfeeding doesn't give one a free pass to opt out of vaccines.

5. There are plenty of "natural" ways to keep the body healthy, vaccines are unnecessary and dangerous.
Well, while I don't believe anyone would accuse me of being a completely "crunchy" momma. I do buy into the whole holistic medicine approach, I did acupuncture when trying to get pregnant, I use herbs, I even have a damn flock of chickens and ducks in the back yard! But I'm also a nurse. I believe in using both Eastern and Western medical approaches in any given situation but I do NOT believe in opting out of medicine, surgery, or vaccines for that matter by thinking that some "natural" approach will work better. There is science in medicine, and I trust the science, bottomline.

Go ahead and eat your Kashi, shop at Whole Foods (we do), take your garlic and zinc during flu season, boycott GMO's (for the love get rid of GMO's!) but don't use that as an excuse to forego medical science.... unless you've done your due diligence and researched it ad nauseum and found proof otherwise.

It is obviously clear where I stand and until the scientific evidence proves otherwise that is where I will stay. This is the info I will continue to impress upon anyone especially when these outbreaks and epidemics arise. Learn the facts, educate yourself on both sides of the story (I know more than a lot about both sides, afterall this is the only way to make an informed choice) so that one day when you're asked to defend your decision you have the ability to do so rationally.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Heaven has a new angel: Explaining Heaven to a toddler

Unfortunately another one of my spirited relatives has made their way to the other side. My Uncle passed away one month to the last day I spent with him fishing... one of his favorite things to do. This is my Dad's second and last younger brother who has gone ahead of him to the flip side... in less than 15 months... just not how it's supposed to be.

Hunting in Kansas
I have so many fond memories of growing up with my Uncle, we were a very close family, in fact we lived next door to one another for several years. Since my cousin and I were only 2 weeks apart we had one heck of a time giving our Dad's hell growing up :) I can remember shooting pop cans in the backyard with my Uncle and Dad taking down pigeons every other shot. There were many nights that we were allowed to drive in his lap... all the while jamming to country music which I hated at the time. Pool days while my cousin and I did back dives into the community pool and volleyball and summer parties at the clubhouse. Hunting trips were always a blast, in fact, the last hunting trip we took would be the last time I got to hang out with my Uncle (who passed away last May from cancer), my Dad, and my Uncle (that passed away last week). There are no words to describe when you get our family clan together... no words, people just stare ha! And of course memories of fishing, my how he loved fishing. I would always tease him that I couldn't believe he could actually catch fish at Chatfield... and so finally after all of these years we made a trip out so that he could teach me and my husband where to go and what to use to actually catch a fish at the lake. My Dad, the Dude, hubbs, and I all watched as he set up our fishing pole rigs. That was the last time I saw him... at least it was another great memory.

And so he waits for us all in heaven...

Not only is it a tragedy for our family but due to the circumstances it is a sickening reminder of days to come. I went with my Dad to my Aunt's side to see if there was anything we could help with in getting all of the final arrangements in order. There are just soooooo many things to do and no one has the slightest clue what is involved until after the fact. My Dad just kept repeating that not only did he want to help because that is what families do, that is what he promised my Uncle many years ago that he would do but he also needed to be there to educate himself on what will be involved in taking care of his own final arrangements. To finally put some things down on paper and share his wishes with all of us for when the time comes.

Let me assure you this is a nauseating conversation.

No one wants to talk about death certificates, crematoriums, last rights, wakes, urns, a burial outfit, etc... It's just not fair that you have to deal with losing someone you love and also get thrown into the nightmare involved with getting the final arrangements in order. But I suppose these things serve to distract us for a short while. Death never gets easier... no matter how many people you lose...and adding children to the mix makes it even tougher, because they do not understand.

Heaven is a strange concept. One of the hardest things I'm finding to do is teach my 2 year old son about heaven. You know... you just shouldn't have to do that... there should be many many years before he should ever have to know what heaven is. We have briefly talked about it before when our prized mother hen Blanche passed. All he knew was that Blanche went away and there wasn't a whole lot beyond that. I told him that we'd see her again someday and he pretty much left it alone, there weren't any questions. But this time there were, and I really had no idea what to tell him... I told the Dude that we were going to fall asleep and go visit my Uncle in our dreams to give him a big hug and tell him how much we loved him. I said that he had gone to Heaven.

"what? why?"

I said that he was very very sick and that there wasn't any medicine that they could give him. I didn't know how to explain this to him without making him afraid that every time he got sick he would end up in heaven... it was a fine line... luckily I think he is mature enough that he pretty much understood what I was saying.

Some might wonder why I would even attempt to explain heaven to him at this point... well... unfortunately I want to prepare him for when Grampa is no longer around... Again something you just shouldn't have to do. Ever.

We continued to talk and I made sure to emphasize how wonderful heaven was. I said that everything in heaven was beautiful and happy and there was icecream and cookies and fun. I told him that no one was sick in heaven and that it was going to be so wonderful for my Uncle to be there and to feel great again.

"But they can't do that!"
"Can't do what hun?"
"Heaven can't take him."

He was clearly puzzled at the whole idea and I just kept doing my best to answer his questions and give him as much age appropriate info as I could between the tears. I told him that even though we aren't really able to see people in heaven we can still talk to them and they can still hear us. I told him that they are always near us and that we can visit them in our dreams any time we want to.

I had no idea if it was sinking in.. I had no idea what I was even telling him, there surely is no instruction manual for preparing a 2 year old for death... But right before I gave him a hug to go to sleep he looked at me and smiled and began to ramble "Uncle go to heaven, and Blanche, and it's so nice, and they have ice cream, and we hug him, and LOVE YOU!, and sleep in our dreams, and and and and and... he continued to smirk and burried into his pillows.

So I smiled back. He got it.

"That's right Dude... it's a wonderful thing... and we're going to go and tell him we love him tonight"
"Ok momma!"

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Most Traumatizing Day of My Life: This is why I Step Up

I'm not even really sure how to write this post, or if I should write it... all I know is that it replays in my mind constantly and I feel like I need to get it off of my chest.

It is roughly one year to the day that we found out my Dad has cancer. It is also about 4 months since we were told that it had come back and is now stage IV. What a year it has been... I often talk about the hellish nightmare it is, nothing's changed there. We should have a frequent flyer card for the hospital, even my 2 year old knows how to manuever through the rat maze that is Swedish Hospital, he'll tell you exactly where to go to see "Grampa and his big owie"...

A few days ago was another trek to the hospital. I got a phone call early in the morning from my step mom, clearly panicked, that my Dad had just left the house in an ambulance. He had gone to the bathroom and just as she went to check on him she caught him as he fell to the floor and proceeded to bleed out all over the bathroom floor.

I jumped in the car and headed to the ER... it was one of many of these drives, blurry tear filled eyes, arriving at my destination with no memory of getting there, wondering if one of these times would be the last time. A million things running through my mind... and then pulling myself together in time to walk in and see what disaster we would be dealing with this go round'.

I knew the bleeding would be a relatively quick fix, I knew exactly what had happened and I knew that the docs/nurses had screwed up just last night as I spoke with them. Most recently, he has a blood clot in his lungs and two more in each leg that they had just found the previous day. The docs had put him on some intense blood thinners, a standard practice with blood clots, but I knew it was a bad idea... too many variables in his situation that made this a bad move. I pleaded with them to treat his situation more urgently. I sat on the phone with the nurses the night before asking them why everyone was being so laissez faire about these clots and they continued to assure me "we stopped his Coumadin and we'll just monitor him and adjust his other med tomorrow when he comes in." My response was "IF he makes to then. Each of these problems is a LIFE THREATENING situation, it should be addressed NOW." Surprise surprise they didn't listen, and at 7:00 am the next day he arrived in the ER via ambulance.

They addressed the bleeding, and shortly after we arrived he was headed up to a room. They were already admitting him no more than 2 hours after getting there. I thought this was odd, usually we spend 8+ hours in the ER and FINALLY get a room at the end of the day. I can only guess that they figured he would be staying... since we've been through this rodeo a few million times before... so they sent him up. I knew I kept thinking this was odd... I had no idea that I should've said something... that I was about to witness the most traumatic experience of my entire life. It turns out he was much too critical to just be sent up to the floor, he should've stayed in the ER where they could deliver immediate care.

Once in the room I called the nurse to tell her we needed oxygen and that someone needed to reassess his bleeding because he was saturating more and more towels. Both of which were relatively urgent issues needing attention. The feeling in the room was escalating as we flagged down the tech to address some issues, he was also in a LOT of pain... it was growing very quickly. Long story short my brother and I were attempting to help my Dad to sit up in his bed per his request... It had been a good 3 minutes now since I asked for oxygen... I had him swing his legs to the side of the bed, and he sat up to grab hold of my brother's neck. What happened next is a complete blur yet so vivid I will not forget as long as I live.

He stood up with our help and immediately went limp, I couldn't see his face because I was behind him reaching over the bed. He started to almost convulse as we sat him back down, his head started to flop violently backward, I caught his head and started to lay him down. I could hear him sucking for air.... this is something I can't even explain... it is not like the movies folks. It was a sound that clearly indicated to me that he was not "there" that his brain stem had just taken over to sustain vital functioning, it was a barbaric sound. And I sat there and watched him stare blankly into the ceiling as his body continued to gasp for air. My Dad was not in that body at that moment and I knew it. I will never forget that expression on his face as he laid there contorted in the bed. Felt like the whole room was spinning around and I was just locked onto his face thinking.... this..... is..... it.... In the mere seconds that this occured the nurse had finally come in with the oxygen and a couple of other nurses. I immediately went into nurse panic mode, it was game time, and my brother and I started screaming at the people in the room. I shouted at one to GET THE OXYGEN!!!!! As my brother nearly tossed the tech out of the room to get help and to get the fuck out of the way. It was absolute chaos. I had one or two nurses behind me flailing around trying to get him hooked up to get a blood pressure reading and I turned to them and told them to stop. I yelled to them to FIND a pulse, NOW, while I yanked the oxygen tubing from the charge nurse and struggled to get it on his face. All the while he continued to suck for air with his eyes wide open... no one was home. The nurse behind me kept saying "Max are you ok, are you there, are you ok" as my step mom yelled at her NO he's NOT ok!! He can't even respond!! As I was literally about to climb on top of my Dad's chest to start CPR and call the crash cart the awful sound started to improve and I said DAD!!! DAD!! And he finally laid there and responded "yeah".

My Dad had literally almost coded in my brother's and my arms.

I have never seen anything like it in my life, not in my nursing career, never.

This was as close as it possibly gets. I literally almost had to climb on top of my father and attempt to save his life. This was not cancer, this was an acute situation that went south in a matter of seconds. This is what I was trying to avoid by requesting the oxygen as soon as we got to the floor. The nurses continued to refer to it as an "episode" as they explained it to the oncoming nursing staff. This was no episode. He almost died right on the table.

In our arms.

Traumatizing is the only word that comes close to describing it. It took me 2 days to even tell anyone what had happened in his room. I was literally shaking for the rest of the day. It is a memory forever seared into my brain. I won't forget that experience, that sound, that look on his face for as long as I live. I felt like it lasted 10 hours when in reality it was only a matter of a few minutes.

Several units of blood, plasma, platelets, etc later my Dad is doing much better. No telling when he'll finally get out of the hospital again but we've certainly done a 180 from three days ago. It's just another day on the cancer journey....

And this is exactly why I'll be Stepping UP on Sunday.

For you Dad, for all of our family in heaven taken by this awful disease, and for all of the families whose lives are forever altered by their experience with a family member's cancer.

I had a nurse ask me yesterday about my tattoo, I said it reads "Get up and fight another round" and she looked at me confused and said "fight? for what?" I pointed to my Dad and I said, for him, for this, for life. She smiled and said she had never thought about it like that before :)

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