Determination Born From the Loss of a Child
I’ve heard numerous stories of children who have lost their lives to vaccine preventable diseases. You can read them on the Vaccinate Your Baby website or in the local paper. You can watch them on YouTube or in a Shot By Shot video. But until you have actually met their families, you may never fully appreciate the determination that is born out of the loss of a child.
This summer I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan and Kathy. By the gentle smiles we exchanged that first day, I never would have guessed the horrific pain they carried in their hearts for their precious son Brady. You see, just a few months prior, Brady has succumbed to a terrible disease known as whooping cough. Jonathan and Kathy’s lives were permanently altered by Brady’s birth. And then again through Brady’s death just two months later. They watched as pertussis infection took the life of their son. And their was nothing that they could do about it.
I met Jonathan and Kathy at a special immunization event. Despite their pain and grief, they had traveled quite a distance to find out how they could become involved in advocating for immunizations. Their biggest concern was to help prevent their personal tragedy from happening to another family. The most inspiring aspect of Jonathan and Kathy’s story is that they reached out to offer their help almost immediately. They did not wait. They did not hesitate. They contacted organizations like Every Child By Two, and began to tell their story in their community, on the local news and even through this blog. Thanks to their courage and conviction, they’re speaking out about the need for pertussis booster shots to protect infants who have yet to be vaccinated.
Last week, Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two, was inspired to use Brady’s story in explaining the dangers of pertussis and the current epidemic we are experiencing in the U.S. this year. Her editorial piece (reprinted below) was shared in several regional newspapers to include the Springfield Republican and the Bangor Daily News. Sadly, Brady is one of the many infants who have lost their lives to whooping cough so far this year. But hopefully, thanks to the work of his devoted parents and organizations like Every Child By Two, other children will be spared such a tragedy.
Please, do your part to encourage expectant parents to cocoon their infants by ensuring that the adults their child comes into contact with are up to date with a Tdap booster. Limiting an infant’s exposure to whooping cough is the best way to protect that child from this devastating disease.
Vaccination key to preventing whooping cough
By Amy Pisani | Executive Director, Every Child by Two
The year 1959 was a great one in many ways. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. Barbie debuted on store shelves. Hawaii became the 50th state and our athletes were gearing up for the 1960 winter Olympics to be held in Squaw Valley.
Sadly, it was also the year that whooping cough cases reached an all time record high in this country. In that year, 40,000 cases were reported. But 2012 is quickly becoming a contender to eclipse 1959. The CDC has reported approximately 19,000 cases already this year.
This is a serious health risk to anyone not vaccinated against the disease, but in particular to infants who are the most vulnerable. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection that can be deadly for infants and the elderly. Sadly, I have met too many families who have lost a child to this awful disease – right here in Massachusetts.
Little Brady Alcaide from Chicopee is one such example. At 2 months of age Brady was a happy, healthy baby until he contracted what his mother thought was a common cold. Brady was treated several times by his doctor, yet he was never diagnosed with pertussis. After he exhibited severe breathing difficulty his parents rushed him to the hospital, where he struggled to live for over 10 days. As is often the case once pertussis invades, Brady succumbed to the disease. At two months, a child has yet to be fully vaccinated against pertussis and many other vaccine preventable diseases. Infants rely on “herd immunity,” which means if the greater population is vaccinated against a disease, others in the community won’t contract it.
Brady’s parents may never know how their child caught the disease. Everyone in the family tested negative for whooping cough, so likely it was contracted from an adult outside the family who didn’t realize they were carrying the infection.
There is no need for families to live with this sort of heartache. Vaccines can prevent this tragedy from happening to another family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults attain a booster shot, called Tdap (which contains tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine). Recent studies show that the vaccine’s effectiveness can wane after time, therefore it is critical that 11-and 12-year-olds also receive a booster shot.
Expecting parents should attain a vaccine themselves and stress that all family members and close contacts take the time to receive the Tdap vaccine several weeks prior to the delivery date. There’s no excuse to delay. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your child’s pediatrician. Ask to check that you’re up to date on all your vaccinations, including the Tdap booster shot. If you can’t afford to take your child to the doctor, your local health department can provide information on the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines free of charge to eligible children.
Help prevent another tragedy like that of little Brady and help to keep 2012 from being another one for the record books.
In what ways have you been alerted to the current pertussis epidemic and what steps are you taking to protect yourself, your children and your community from whooping cough?