What its like having an anti-vax mum – 39 years on

Thinking by window

Growing up I was always sick. I was a sickly kid, I caught every bug going, and then some. My mum told me that I would have a good immune system when I was older as I had every cough and cold going. I had no idea about vaccinations or that illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough were not normal things to have growing up. It was only in my twenties that I realised my mum was an antivax mum, and my compromised immune system was the creation of that.

As a baby, I was told that the first in the series if jabs kids get to provide immunity against all sorts of illnesses, I had an allergic reaction to – I cried, I was fussy, I had a slight temperature and wasn’t really myself. So my mum decided that I was not having any more jabs after that. Most parents will know that following immunisation jabs, babies and toddlers will act fussy and they will sometimes be a bit out of sorts, this is normal. A bit of Calpol and some love and hugs, makes it so much easier.

In 1982 I was hospitalised with measles, and a bad case of it too. My infant body could not cope with the virus and while I was so dehydrated, all my finger nails and eyelashes fell out as a reaction to the virus.

In 1987 I caught mumps, I can remember being in Clark’s shoe shop having new shoes fitted (magic step shoes with the hidden key) and telling my mum that my jaw hurt and I felt funny. Two weeks later when I eventually returned to school, I was one of only five children there and two members of teaching staff – I had given the whole school mumps.

In 1988 I came down with whooping cough. I was off school for the full school year. I would have such violent coughing fits that I would turn blue. I was force fed banana flavoured antibiotics four times a day, and to this day bananas will make me feel sick because of that.

In my teens the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) was introduced and everyone at school lined up to have their jab done by the school nurse. I however sat with a letter from my mother saying I had natural immunity from all of these illnesses and more as I had already had them. The jab for me was pointless and I was under no circumstances to have it.
Fast forward to the present day. I am 38 years old and I am currently lying in bed writing this with a bad case of mumps. If you have followed my blog for any time, you will also know that I have fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease too, that I live with every day. Because of these conditions, one being an auto immune condition, I have to be careful about picking up bugs and viruses as they knock me for six – the fact that I have mumps just now proves that point!
There is a myth that having a childhood illness or even having the vaccines against them will provide life long immunity – once you have had it once, you cannot get it again. My doctor confirmed to me just this week that this is incorrect. As time progresses viruses change and mutate, the illness that I had 30 odd years ago is now bound to be different and the small print of the vaccines do not guarantee life long immunity either as things can change.

There is always the slim chance that even if someone is vaccinated or has built up a natural immunity, they can still catch another version of that disease.
Last year when visiting my consultant IBD specialist in Manchester, I was asked if at any point in my life had I had a long period of time, over two weeks, been dependent on antibiotics. The answer was yes – nine months in fact, when I had whooping cough. It was explained to me this was the likely reason that I now have Crohns disease because the antibiotics would have stripped all good bacteria from my digestive system and it is now, as an adult that I am paying the price of having an antivax mum.

If way back in the 80s when I should have had my childhood immunisations, and as a teen, when everyone in my school was having the MMR jab, would my life and health be different now? It’s a tricky question – and my mum is no longer with us to discuss her choices for not vaccinating me – would my health and immune system be as flawed as it is now had I had those injections?

I have no idea really, as even though I have done a lot of research, I cannot turn back time and say for sure how different my life would be. For all I know, if I had those jabs as a kid, I may have been hit by a bus at some point and still ended up with a life that involves hospitals, doctors and boat loads of prescription medication daily.

There is however a lot to be said for the children who at the moment are the offspring of antivax parents. While their intentions are good, like my mum’s were, what will be the price these children will pay when they are in their late 30’s like me? How will the medical field have changed in that time, and how will viruses mutate and change over the years? Is it worth risking your child’s long term health and the consideration that many childhood diseases, if caught in adulthood can leave irreversible damage to women who are pregnant and the reproductive functions in both sexes?

So, while I lie here in bed looking like a chipmunk, a hot water bottle pressed to the side of my face to ease the pain, leave a comment below with your views on childhood vaccinations. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the matter as I know that this can be a touchy subject to some.

Oh, if anyone is ever on the fence and thinks that childhood illnesses are not that bad, and if anyone wanted to know what mumps feels like as an adult – take toothache and sinus pain, add earache and a splitting headache right above your eyes. Every morning imagine waking up with your mouth feeling like something had died in there overnight, but your saliva glands have stopped working so you cannot get rid of the foul taste. Now every time you move, imagine you have a bag full of fluid attached to your cheeks and that fluid wants to test gravity, making it feel like your face is about to drop off. Then there is the fever and the crippling period pain like cramps too as mumps can, and will, affect a women’s ovaries, if everything else wasn’t enough. Because it’s a virus, the only thing to take is paracetamol, bed rest and plenty of fluids for the next 14 – 24 days. But also be on the look out for meningitis or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and sepsis as these are also possible complications. Would you let your child go through that discomfort if you had the chance to minimise the likelihood and chances of it happening?

Leave your comments below, whichever side of the fence you are on.

Love, hugs and bed rest
V x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *