Back In School, But Are They Protected?
Sep 07, 2011

September has brought lots of change.  Just a few weeks ago we were entrenched in preparation for a hurricane, while also scrambling to purchase school supplies.  With five children ranging from first grade through high school there was a lot to accomplish.  I even brought a child into the health clinic for her Tdap booster, required for admittance into 6th grade.  While there, we discovered she was also in need of a Hep A and second varicella shot.  Because the doctor only wanted to administer three vaccines at one visit, they requested that we return for a recommended meningitis vaccine.
So yesterday, the first day of school was finally upon us and after a summer of endless activity, I completed the morning rush of getting everyone off to school only to return to a strangely quiet house.   At first, the silence was so oddly distracting that I had a hard time concentrating.  But then, my mind turned to my efforts here at Shot of Prevention in advocating for vaccines and I was quickly reminded about my daughter’s meningitis vaccine.

Smiling because she’s finally being discharged.

Interestingly enough, this child is one I am quite accustomed to worrying about.  Last year, she spent a week in the hospital and 6 weeks at home with IV antibiotics after being diagnosed with a bone infection.   Although we will never be certain, the doctors believe that the infection may have begun with a small, dime-sized cut on her thumb.  For whatever reason, the bacteria that infected her bones was able to get past the antibiotic cream applied to the cut, and the Band-Aid she wore, and replaced, until the cut had healed.   The cut never once looked out of the ordinary, but once inside her body, the infection spread not only to her wrist, but also to her ankle.  For weeks there were hardly any outward symptoms and the infection easily disguised itself as an orthopedic issue.  Even after several days of fever, she was mistakenly diagnosed with strep throat.  It would be another couple of weeks before the proper diagnosis was made and we began aggressive action to combat the infection that had begun to eat away at her bones.

The entire experience reminded my husband and I of several things.
First, doctors don’t have crystal balls.  They use symptoms to assist them in diagnosis and while there are certain technologies that can certainly help (lab tests, x-rays, MRIs), diagnosis is often like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.  However, sometimes you find that a few of those pieces have gone missing.
Second, we as parents do what we can to protect our children.  We do our best to keep them in good health and get them proper medical attention when they need it.  Unfortunately, the reality is, there are absolutely no guarantees.  One day that precious child may fall dangerously ill, become permanently disabled or even die.
It is these considerations that have helped convince me that preventive actions, like immunizations, are an important means of protection.   Today I made that appointment to get my daughter her meningitis vaccine, but to be honest, I felt there was more I could do to help warn other parents about the dangers of meningitis.
Meningitis really scares me as a parent.  It comes on very quickly.  It often results in irreversible damage.  And some of the symptoms such as headache and fever are ones we encounter quite frequently.  However, meningitis is a devastating disease
Unfortunately, there are countless videos, like this one from Shot By Shot, that tell the story of a life lost to meningitis.  In this case it was 12 year old Kaela.
If this video made an impact on you today, please consider sharing it, along with your suggestion that parents consider this vaccine for their own children.  Unfortunately, since the vaccine is not often required for school, some parents are not familiar with the disease or the available vaccine that works to prevent it.  In some cases, (like college students living off campus), some people are told they “don’t need it” because they are not at risk, when the truth is that they could still request it as a precaution.  The fact is that the CDC recommendation for meningitis vaccination is for all 11-12 year-olds, with a booster dose at age 16 and the suggestion that adolescents receive the vaccine less than five years before starting college.
Personally, I have never heard a parent say, “I just knew my child would die from a vaccine preventable disease.”  However, I’ve heard many parents who’ve admitted, “I never imagined something so devastating would happen to my child.”
For more information and additional video testimonials, visit the National Meningitis Association or Meningitis Angels.  You may even want to check this recent post on Parents Who Protect which provides a detailed back-to-school vaccine checklist for all ages.
Let’s all do our best to keep parents informed of important vaccine recommendations.

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