NYVIC (New Yorkers for Vaccination Information and Choice)


Measles Experience
by Jessica Hall

Most parents of unvaccinated children wonder at some point, "What would I do if my child came down with one of the so-called vaccine preventable diseases? " A friend and neighbor of mine was in such a situation with her three year old son. I asked her if she would like to share her experience with our group and we decided to do an interview.

I was especially impressed with her experience because she is a single mother of three children, and she took her son to the emergency room at Beth Israel accompanied by her mother-in-law, who speaks no English and was therefore unable to assist in communicating with the doctors.

Through this interview I learned that there is no treatment for measles in mainstream medicine, probably because it is believed unnecessary because of the vaccine. It should be a comfort for parents to know that there are many holistic treatments for measles. I went to Barnes and Nobles to look for books on alternative healthcare and found several that have treatments for measles, as well as the other childhood diseases. I found it interesting that these books are available at Barnes and Noble, and not only in health food stores, or specialty bookshops. A list of the books I found, as well as a brief description of the types of treatments and information they contain, is listed at the end of this interview.

Tell us about when your son had the measles

He had some fitful sleeps that week, where he had a stomach ache waking up with nightmares, not really sleeping well. I thought he ate something that didn't feel right. The next week I picked him up from school and he seemed tired, his eyes were at half mast. I was walking home with him and stopped at the store. I was talking to a friend and Shuaib was sitting on a chair and my friend noticed he didn't look well, she asked, "What's wrong, he doesn't' seem well." I looked at him and his glands were huge (putting her hands on her neck, under her chin) they were like big balls. I brought him home and he slept and had a fever. I looked in a book to figure out what was going on and his cheeks were really red too. He was feverish with swollen glands. His fever was 101-102 throughout the whole time he had the measles. I had to go to work the next day and I left him home with my mother. When I got back he had a rash over his whole body. It was pink and flushed, a red blotchy look, then it started to raise like pimples. I had to bring him to the doctor, but at that time we had no insurance or Medicare so I brought him to the emergency room. When I brought him in they put us right away in an isolation room because he had that rash. It was a dirty unkempt room, really small with a bed in it, to examine people. So they left us in there for 1/2 and hour before they came (to look) None of them knew what it was.

Who came exactly?

Doctors, they didn't know, they said they had to get someone who specialized in infectious diseases to come and look at him, and she was not back from lunch, something like that. She was a European doctor, apparently she had worked in Europe for many years and she had seen measles. They (the other doctors) thought it was measles but they weren't sure. She finally came....

Had you told them at that point that he was unvaccinated?

I told them.

How did they respond? Did you tell them it was because of your religion?

I told them, I didn't explain it, I just said he never had shots. They were upset. Only one doctor got mean with me. The other doctors were just upset.

Did they say anything to you?

Just the one doctor did, because I wouldn't give him (Shuaib) any Tylenol. He said, "Why won't you give this to him?" and I said, "I don't think its a big deal that he has a fever. I want to let his body work through what its going through without giving him any medicine." He said, "Some kids have seizures with fevers." and he was yelling at me. He was implying that I didn't care about my child, as if I didn't care that he was suffering. Then he left and I got really upset.

You were alone?

My mother-in-law was with me.

Was she supportive of you?

She was supportive of me, she doesn't speak any English, so she really didn't know what was going on at all.

So that's good support....to just be there!

Right! So, after that doctor left I was really mad and I asked her to stay there with Shuaib. I went after him (the doctor) and I told him, "How dare you yell at me when my child is sick! Where's your sensitivity?" This was in front of other doctors, and he said, "I was just trying to help."

Good for you! Did you feel good about that?

I felt good. I was shaking with anger though, I was really disgusted with how he treated me, just because I have different beliefs. I was also upset about my child. He was sick and I was nervous. No one could tell me what was going on. We're in this room where they put people with infections, he's sick and I don't want him to get sicker, and he's starting to act strange. He's starting to act like he's loosing his speech, he's getting groggy.....I don't know if its' because he's so swollen or he' s just getting claustrophobic. I thought he was going to have a seizure of something. It was really weird.

I got panicked, so I put him in the stroller and brought him to the front desk. They said, "NO! You can't bring him back here! " They were afraid it was airborne. I said, "O.K., but I'm not waiting in that room anymore, send the doctor immediately" I wasn't going to wait in that room anymore. So they said, "Please wait, we're sending someone." They told me to go back, but I couldn't, so I went outside (with Shuaib) I had my mother-in-law wait with him right there and I went (back inside) to look for the doctor. I just wanted discharge papers. I could have just left, he could have had a blood test later (to confirm it was measles) I wasn't thinking.

When I brought him outside I said, "Say MOMMY" because he was just out of it and he said, "MOMMY" , he said my name immediately, he was talking, he was happy to be outside, he had his voice back. He was trying to tell me, "Mommy, get me out of here."

As I was walking back in (to look for the doctor) I saw her walking toward the room we had been in and I said, "He's not in there anymore. We're outside, were leaving." She said, "Please stay, I just want to look at him real quick." So I said, "O.K., you look at him but we leave when you leave." So I brought him back to the room and she looked at him and said immediately that it was measles and she said "Can I do a blood test so you can have it documented?"

What was her attitude? Did she know he was unvaccinated?

Yeah, she knew. She was helpful, but at the same time she scared me, she said, "You know there is a chance that measles can cause encephalitis, it can hibernate in the brain for years and cause another disease." I asked what that percent was and it was so small, I just didn't want to hear it.

I said O.K. with the blood test and we left. And I was happy it was measles, in a way, that he'd had it and built antibodies to it naturally. She told me she had to report it to the Board of Health, so the Board of Health came to my door several days later.

How many people came?

Two, a man and a woman.

What did they want?

They wanted to know where he had been. They wanted to know where he got it, if anyone at his school had had it. I said no.

Did they ask you to notify the school?

Yeah, and I did, but no one else got it. I kept him out of school though, even the week after that.

What did it look like as it progressed?

The rash go red and bumpy all over his body, then it got brownish, and then it faded over the course of several days. He had a fever, 101-102. The rash didn't peel, it didn't get itchy.

It says in the book I have that it will peel.

But it didn't match exactly the symptoms in my book.

I really admire your courage, and the way you dealt with that. A lot of people are terrified of the day they might be in a situation like that. You really had your wits about you to be able to deal with things as they occurred. That's something that happens to a lot of us when were thrown into a difficult situation, our child is ill, we're scared, we loose our ability to think rationally.

I was scared of the system, the DOH, I was afraid they might think I was negligent, that someone might react in a very horrible way. There was nothing legally they could do against me,,, and I knew that.

I think its really important also that you addressed the doctor who yelled at you. Its important for people to do that because nothings going to change until people start responding, and letting doctors know how we feel, how we want to be treated, otherwise they may never even think about it. I've heard so many times how people have been dissatisfied with how they've been treated in the hospital, I ask "Did you tell them, did you write a letter?" As a parent you're so busy you have so much to do anyway, to think about writing a letter, dealing with an unpleasant situation, I can see why people don't want to do it, but it's so important, because they'll never change, they'll have no reason to.

Its very hard to raise children living with that type of attitude, the medical profession and their attitude toward natural healing. The reason I brought him was because I wanted to know what it could be. The rash didn't scare me, but his glands were so huge I knew it must be some kind of infection.

You needed a diagnosis...

But that's the last time I go to the emergency room for something like that. Now I've applied for health insurance for my children.

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