There are so many posts about it on social media that turn into arguments – should you let your child have the measles vaccine or not? Then there are stories in the news about outbreaks and epidemics…but they’re happening to other people, right?
Wrong. It happened to our beautiful baby girl, and now we’re sharing our story after the doctors and nurses at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital suggested it could help show people just how serious this disease can be. We hope it will make people understand how important childhood vaccinations are.
Alba was rushed to hospital by ambulance on March 24, just a week before her first birthday. She was initially diagnosed with viral tonsillitis and sent home, but a few days later a rash appeared on the back of her neck. Her eyes were red. Her great-grandmother, Grandma and Nanny all said they thought it was measles.
We went back to the doctor, who told us the rash was viral and part of the tonsillitis. Three days later, with Alba no better, we consulted a different doctor. Same thing. The next day, on April 6, with Alba having had no food or drink for several days, we decided to go to the emergency department at Chelsea & Westminster. After Alba was initially diagnosed, we were sent home because measles is so contagious. But when she continued to deteriorate, I called to let them know we were coming back – it was only fair, as she was so contagious, but she needed treatment.
Alba was admitted, and it would be eight days before she was well enough to come home. During that time we had to watch our little girl, too young to have the MMR vaccination, battle this horrific disease with her own immune system.
Her eyes were swollen shut for four days. She had a fever (for more than two weeks in total). She had scans, X-rays, cannulas, lumbar punctures, ECGs, blood tests. She was poked and prodded, given oxygen, pumped full of drugs and fed via a tube. All this was, sadly, necessary; Alba had deteriorated so quickly, the doctors were worried there was a secondary infection or possibly some other virus or disease.
It’s hard for us to talk about what happened because it’s still terrifying to realise just how real the threat of measles is, how close it came, and what it could have meant for our little girl. What it still could mean.
Please don’t tell us that measles is ‘just a rash’ or that ‘most kids get over it if they do catch it’. After the horrific time we’ve just had, the anxiety we’ve been through, that’s frankly insulting.
We have no idea where Alba caught measles – the virus is airborne and so contagious it could have been anywhere. But all this could have been prevented if older children around her were vaccinated.
Alba deteriorated so quickly it was terrifying. Measles can cause blindness, encephalitis and pneumonia, and all these things were on our mind. The long-term effects are still a worry – even though she is so much better and recovering well, Alba’s latest blood tests still aren’t clear and she’s not herself. There may still be complications.
Please, look at what can happen when you don’t vaccinate your kids. You’re not just putting them at risk but other people too – other children, those whose immune systems are compromised. I respect free choice, I do. But this is too important to ignore.
We’re asking people to educate themselves. The original ‘study’ linking MMR to autism has been completely discredited. Yes, after they have the vaccine your baby might be fretful and a little off-colour for a few days afterwards. Isn’t that better than the potential alternative? An alternative that becomes more and more likely as take-up rates drop and ‘herd immunity’ is threatened? Please, please think about it.
Being told Alba now has lifetime immunity to measles means nothing. No child should have to go through what she has been through. Vaccines were introduced for a good reason. We put our trust in the medical profession on numerous occasions – this should be one of them.
We’d also like to say a public thank you to the doctors and nurses at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital – without their care, our darling Alba wouldn’t be here today. And also to the many people – both our loved ones and total strangers from around the world – who have sent their support. Your good wishes have truly touched us.
This is our story, and we will continue to share it, in the name of our brave Alba, to raise awareness of how terrible measles can be, how frightening it is to watch your child become so ill. If it persuades just one parent to get their child vaccinated, if it stops just one case of this disease, it’s worth it.