Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Immunizations and Hearing Loss: Our Story

Three weeks ago, I received an email from a fellow mommy friend, Bonnie. Bonnie also runs a blog and asked me to write about how I lost my hearing, and my life as a mommy in general. She recently posted my article on her blog. Bonnie also encouraged me to write about immunizations and how it has impacted our lives.  Our discussion on vaccinations started way back in March - when I first started attending the Moms and Tots group at St. Patrick's Parish (a wonderful, wonderful source of knowledge considering these moms are amazing).

First off, I'll reiterate what I wrote in my pilot post - my opinions are my opinions, and they are not intended to belittle other perspectives. This is quite simply, our personal experience after contracting a virus (where we were the unlucky ones, not getting off scot-free).  

I'll start this story in December of 1984. My mother was in her first trimester - likely pretty excited to be expecting her first child (and after 8 years of trying, this was deemed a miracle!). Somehow, somewhere, she contracted Rubella (or Little Red, translated from Latin). While the effects only lasted for a short while, it had a lifelong impact on our lives - but thankfully it wasn't deadly, as it could have been. 

Life changes in an instant
Naturally, my parents consulted several physicians, who (all but one doctor) then told them terminate the pregnancy (uh, hello fancy word for abortion). Those suggesting termination claimed that it would be likely that I'd be born physically deformed, with missing limbs, a smaller brain, blindness, a hole in the heart, hearing loss, and so much more. Apparently the risk for deformity runs at about 80%! I like to think that my parents were in the top 20%, and that God was watching over me. Having a hearing loss isn't so bad compared to the other risks listed. Fortunately, as Catholics they did not believe in abortion, for that, I am thankful. If they had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, my little girl would not be in existence today.

Shortly after my birth, I was sent for multiple tests - the last one was the hearing test, and I failed it. At one month old, my parents were faced with the reality that their child couldn't hear, no doubt devastating for them. However difficult, they gave me a pretty awesome childhood (often pulling me out of school to go on trips - how cool is that!?!?), encouraged me to do what I enjoyed doing most - swimming, volleyball, dance, and more.  The rest is history.

Some things are left unexplained
My husband Curtis, on the other hand was born with perfectly normal hearing. With his permission to share his story - he contracted meningitis at 20 months old. No one knows the real reason how or why it happened. Despite the reason, meningitis led to the loss of his hearing, also no doubt a devastating reality for his parents and siblings. Like rubella, I did some research on other possible after effects of meningitis (be aware though, there are many strains of meningitis, so this list is fairly broad).
  • Memory loss, difficulty retaining information, lack of concentration
  • Clumsiness, coordination problems
  • Residual Headaches
  • Learning difficulties
  • Epilepsy/Seizures (fits)
  • Weakness, paralysis or spasms of the body
  • Speech problems
  • Loss of sight/changes in sight
emory loss / difficulty retaining information / lack of concentration - See more at:
We turned out ok!
Two hard of hearing people, two different stories. Hearing loss can happen to ANYONE at any age. Even though Curtis' hearing loss isn't as severe as mine, it still affects his daily life as much as it does mine. There is a silver lining in all this though, if we didn't have a hearing loss, we might never have met. :)

Health is paramount
Given our personal exposure to these two viruses, rubella and meningitis, we are pretty set on immunizing our little girl. We want to give her the best fighting chance against various viruses that pervade our environment - we know that vaccinations won't protect her 100%, but at least it's better than leaving her completely exposed. I remember when we took Rachel for her first immunization at two months old, the public health nurse asked us if we were OK with vaccinations (guess she probably gets a lot of slack from other parents). It seems kind of sad to me that even nurses at the front line have to ask that question.

Rachel's first immunizations. Poor baby, but it needed to be done!
Some might argue that vaccinations cause harm, but in that case it becomes a question of scale. Since the introduction of vaccines, diseases, disabilities and deaths have been reduced worldwide (World Health Organization). The scientists and doctors who put together these vaccines have spent more hours on these vaccines than I could ever do in a lifetime. At some point, we just have to trust our medical system. 

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