It has been a bad few weeks for William. He’s been poorly off and (mostly) on for weeks now with one thing or another that he has picked up. His levels of immunity are quite low now because he is on a high dose of Ciclosporin (for those of you unfamiliar with his story this is the same drug that is used post-transplant to prevent organ rejection) and consequently he can fall very ill with even the briefest of contact with someone who is sick or after touching surfaces that may have germs on them (toilet door handles, light switches, school desks where someone sneezed earlier this morning, someone coughing two rows behind in assembly etc).
Three weeks ago he and his brothers fell ill with a fever and bad cold but William developed tonsillitis and while the others bounced back, he was quite unwell for several days. He started antibiotics to prevent bacterial complications developing. The second day that William was sick I took Harry into school (always tricky to get him there without his bro but I bribed him by allowing him to choose his own breaktime snack, crisps) where the head took me to one side and informed me that a child in William’s class had come down with suspected German Measles. So now, already poorly, William was quite possibly incubating German Measles.
The following week he returned to school. Two days after finishing the antiobiotics, he came home tired and tearful. I waited for the fever – which appeared by about 11pm. This time he was very poorly with tonsils so swollen and covered in exudate that he could barely talk and a very high fever and so when a rash appeared we were summoned to the hospital where we were greeted as regulars and William was given a room in isolation. Fortunately the rash was diagnosed as probable glandular fever and we were later sent home after tests with another round of antiobiotics (also a pain because it requires my presence at school daily to administer them and my presence during the darkest hours of the night to administer them again – so tired right now).
He returned to school yesterday where the school secretary thoughtfully informed me that a child in his class now has chickenpox (March is chickenpox month, always a fun month when you have an immunosuppressed child!) so now we wait to see if he will come down with that.
Mostly I cope fine with all this, sad for my little boy who misses so much, but also quietly grateful when we manage to stay out of hospital. But it’s made harder when one of my closest friends asks me ‘how do you manage to catch all these illnesses?’ and I wonder how I have any hope of keeping William well, because if she doesn’t understand how easily he can fall ill, what hope do I have with all the other parents?
I understand that parents are free to choose whether or not to vaccinate their child but I wonder if they understand the risk to those – like my son – who are so very vulnerable. I thought long and hard before vaccinating my first son, Harry, because of the suggested link back then between the MMR vaccine and autism; I did hours of research and came down in favour of vaccinating him. Since then research has been unable to prove any link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Rubella (german measles) is not especially dangerous to William but the MMR vaccine covers measles, mumps and rubella which leaves children who haven’t had the MMR jab unvaccinated against all three including measles which is a much more serious disease. If William catches measles, he faces a 30% mortality rate. If he catches measles, I will be sitting in the hospital, praying and crying.
If you choose to take the risks with your own children then I respect your choice, but please don’t forget that there are other children who don’t have a choice and everytime you choose not to vaccinate and you put your child in school, go shopping or go to any public place with them, you put my child at risk.
I expect those parents would argue that I should keep my child away from crowds, but William wants to go to school, he wants to go swimming (it’s the one exercise that doesn’t hurt his bones), he wants to come to the toy shop to spend his pocket money. I defy them to hear him say ‘this is not a good life mummy’ when I tell him he has to spend another day at home because he is ill and then tell him, when he is well, that he can’t do the things that a six year old wants to do, to do the things that make life worth living.