Monday, August 31

Can't get no satisfaction.

No not in terms of the Mick Jagger reference, but more in terms of kids. And the sketchy debate surrounding them with regard to vaccinations.

Since Friday, Jason and I eagerly awaited for the Dateline investigation "A Dose of Controversy" airing last night over the long-held debate of vaccinations and their relationship to the rise of Autism.

In short I felt NBC did a botch job on uncovering answers to links, should there be any between the two. The interview was set mostly between Matt Lauer and a doctor from the UK, Dr. Wakefield, who made claims in the nineties that the MMR vaccination had some type of impact on children more suseptable to developing autism. I felt they focused too heavily on the skeptical investigative journalist, also from the UK, Brian Deer who has uncovered ethical claims about the doctor over the past decade. There was little discussion over vaccine safety, ingredients, the Vaccine Court or anything else relevant really.

When Jason raised his daughter, Justine, as an infant of the nineties the biggest parental fear was SIDS. It was blasted through the media waves and it brought back those same fears for him when our oldest son, Mason, came home from the hospital. It took all of his willpower to let the baby sleep in peace and often times crouched into Mason's crib inches from his face to feel the air exhaling quietly from his tiny button nose. When Mason turned three months young, an infant a month younger than him tragically died of SIDS next door to us at our neighbor's daycare. Yes it was terrifying and bewildering; it pulled my heart out of my chest and summoned empathetic pain in my soul for my caregiving neighbor and the bereaving parents.

A year later Mason summoned a similar terrifying bewildering heart breaking pain in us too. See, for most parents today, as I earlier mentioned, SIDS is not the worry. It doesn't have its own awareness month, and you often fail to see magnetic ribbons proclaiming its non-profit organization on the bumpers of cars on the road. There really aren't marches in support of the cause of SIDS.

It's autism that lives in the tiny part of a parents' mind hopeful that someday we won't look at our kids and see that light dim in his eyes. It was me and Jason, who at every vaccination appointment since January 2008, feared and loathed the needles. Immensely.

Mason turned 15 months on January 11, 2008. On the 14th, he received the MMR vaccine while I winced by his side. He toughed out the shot screaming momentarily and the days that followed resumed his usual boisterous self. The Friday following his shot, he was slightly feverish and lacked energy. Saturday the 19th of January, he woke up with a fever, crying, which was unusual for him and I gave him some Tylenol. By lunch his fever reduced minimally to 100, and the day went on administering fever reducing meds. Before bed, he felt like he was burning up, and his fever rose to 103. More Tylenol. Cool bath. Bedtime.

I called the doctor at our family practice and left a message with their after hours assistant. With no response I waited and skimmed through some parenting books looking for answers. Like when the hell I'm supposed to take him to the ER if nothing changes here. No more than 90 minutes after I gave Mason Tylenol he was up screaming. Jason went back to the boys room and Mason was absolutely hysterical, like I've never heard him. His body was limp. His coloring bordered on a literal definition of beet red. I retrieved our digital ear thermometer and it read 105.9 degrees.

I panicked and with my hands shaking I called our doctor again and demanded to speak to some body immediately as we readied to drive to the hospital. I next phoned my parents who sped to our house in two minutes flat in their pjs to care for our newborn Peyton who was only 6 weeks old. A minute later a very presumptuous doctor called back and barked at us to take him to the ER as we were heading out the door, like I even questioned it.

For the first time in our marriage I failed to nag Jason for driving 65 in a 40 zone, and for the three red lights he sailed through as I watched Mason's eyes slowly roll back and forth in the carseat behind me, moaning in pain. I quietly wondered in my mind if children died from fevers as high as his.

The ER staff took us in quickly at the sight of Mason and when the nurse calmly talked to us about his condition, her tone changed with the thermometer inserted into Mason's rectum continued to climb past 106. Suddenly I heard STAT called over the phone and four nurses rushed us to an examination room. They brought in a concoction of Tylenol and Motrin to reduce the fever immediately. We stayed in there for four hours watching the Animal Planet on the TV while people shuffled in and around us swabbing his throat, drawing blood, gathering phlegm samples from his nose and stopping short before the catheter was needed for a urine sample.

A frustrated doctor talked to us after the results of all of Mason's tests revealed: nothing.

"Well he DID have the MMR shot on Monday," I suggested, exasperated.

"No, no, that shot wouldn't have any reaction, really," he quickly retorted.

A few months later when I noticed a stagnant development if not a regression in Mason's speech, Jason and I began digging deeper. For anything. And we stumbled upon a great degree of research suggesting a relationship between the Austism Spectrum Disorder and the MMR shot in conjunction with the other 36+ shots given to most children the their first two years of life. Why the hell wouldn't there be some type of profound affect when all of these chemicals are injected into tiny, vulnerable bodies that even 10 years ago were not required?

And why and how would my very healthy son, acquire a fever of 106, bordering on seizures without ANY other symptom to show for it, nor a diagnotic cause? I later read months after our ER trip that Mason was in the .03% who can obtain the possible seizure inducing fevers post-MMR vaccine. Fortunately he netted no seizure but it sure as hell made me question the methodology of the vaccination schedule and the safety of my children.

Mason's not autisic. And I'd like to say we really dodged the bullet.

I'm not clinging to a man like Dr. Wakefield, as suggested by his critics, because he's standing up for parents of autisic children who have no one else who listens to their outcries about vaccines. As he emphatically stressed last night in the interview his concern is about the safety of the children, and that if so many children are affected after any shot then perhaps it's something worth investigating.

My God, have a witch hunt for all the parents out there questioning the CDC, the AAP and all of the other government backed groups also in tie with Big Pharma of America! How dare parents of the US question their legitamacy for the safety of their kids!

But, wait, I think I have a parental doctrine around the house somewhere spouting off something about that.

Yes, here it is: my kids' safety is my job.

post edit note: on the advice of Jason, yes we do continue vaccinating our children and will not be responsible for any outbreaks of whooping cough in the Greater Phila Area. Also, he insists he only dismissed one red light en route to the ER.

Sunday, August 23

Family vacation. An ultimate oxymoron.

Hold off on plunging tomatoes at my head or stoning me to a state of unconsciousness. I have very fond memories of my family vacations as a kid, but in hindsight it is from the perspective of a child and I have a new found perspective of being a parent. Of toddlers. And a very hormonal teenager. All of whom I love.

But now I need a vacation.

It was a week of beautiful weather. I scored a bronzey tan which I'm totally gloating about like I'm a 13 year old pool rat again trying to gain bragging rights to a summer tan before going back to school. And I caught some sweet waves. On my body board. Conceal the snide laughs; I haven't tested the surfboard on Jersey waves for God's sake.

Our family of five ventured to a gigundous beach house shared with my parents, my in laws, my grandma and my youngest teenage cousin who contributed to keeping the balance among the teenage population. I cooked four fantastic Rachael Ray meals that will be added to the bangin' foodie list. But it was beyond exhausting on many parts, mostly because of the kids. I've realized how much energy is put into them even more so on vacation because as a parent I want them to enjoy the aura of the beach as much as I do.

I want them to point to every obnoxious advertisement being flown overhead by the puddle jumper planes, the military jets that rip past us, the tug boat too close to shore, the sand crab pinching my toe, and the dolphins jumping beyond the waves. But they don't yet, so I act as the motherly tour guide for the majority of the time. Sorry folks, it's tiresome. Especially if your kids want nothing to do with the above and really only want to eat piles of sand by the fistful causing ungodly sights and stenches in their Pampers, thank you very much.

Add to that: a week of spoiling, limited structure and discipline and you have yourself a picture of childhood anarchy.

I was sad to see the week end mostly because through it all we had a great time, but Jason and I were eager to get home. Half way through the trip home we were busy crooning along to Bob Schneider, Barenaked Ladies, and Dave Matthews incessantly when our SUV began sputtering on the Schuylkill Express outside of Philly. It's not our vehicle, but was graciously borrowed from Jason's oldest brother. The Yukon died in transit on the Schuylkill three times before we literally stopped 500 yards before the Conshohocken exit.

A lot of things went through my mind at that point, mostly all of them referring to dangerous statistics about highway fatalities to stranded vehicles. Every tractor trailer that passed in a blur of motion sent chills down my spine as its sheer power sent our 7-passenger vehicle rocking subtly. The view out my window led to a steep hill bordering Amtrak lines. I am a catastrophic thinker, and all I kept seeing in my mind were headlines about a family's vacation ending tragically on the Schuylkill.

I began retracting the thoughts I had about my kids. The "seriously isn't it bedtime for you kids, yet?" thoughts. I still do regret thinking them. Well most of them anyway. The teenager's request for a pink bra, no I'm sorry a Victoria's Secret PINK bra, was still not happening during day two of vacation and will not happen now either, mind you, and I don't regret the internal expletive thoughts I had after that little proposal. And I don't regret my reaction to my toddlers' baffling stunt where they managed to score dad's electric shaver out of the wall, shave off pieces of each other's hair, dismantle the mechanism, all in about ten minutes after I put them to bed for naptime on day three of vacation.

But all of the other grumblings I said under my breath out of exhaustion... yea those I totally regret.

And I still need that vacation. As if it were in question.