Friday, November 13, 2009

Rant, rant, rant

I seem to cry at the drop of a hat these days....t.v commercials, newspaper articles, personal worries and concerns all seem to reduce me to quiet tears.  I'm not sure why  - although I have some ideas.

Still, tonight what I feel most of all is frustration and anger.  Who actually knows, maybe H1N1 will turn out to be, please, please, please, much ado about nothing - except for those poor, grieving families who have lost love ones to date because of this flu strain.  I do know that the first chance I had, my boys were vaccinated - and Winston will go back next week for his second shot as he is under three and Canada has to date decided that all children under 3 years should receive two half doses, 21 days apart. 

As for those who say the chances are minimal that they will contract the virus, or that if they do it will most likely be mild, I say that is not a chance I am willing to take.  I sat, slept, ate and despaired next to Winston's hospital crib for a week last winter while he struggled to breathe...I awoke nightly to the urgent rustling of nurses arriving to clear his breathing passages and get his heart rate stabilized because the poor baby could not breathe on his own without help and his heart would start to flag...I sat there pumping milk that he would not ever drink because he refused all fluid and solids day after day as his fever climbed, his condition worsened.  And this nightmare was caused from simple complications due to a common cold virus.   A cold.  The frickin' common cold and my baby was in the children's hospital for a week under constant care, wires and tubes snaking in and out, over and under his little body.  So when a vaccine to help prevent H1N1 came along you better believe I was not taking any chances.

I mean, what are the odds here in North America that any of our children will actually come in contact with, or contract, many of the diseases for which they are routinely vaccinated?  Slim to none.  And why?  BECAUSE WE HAVE A PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM THAT VACCINATES THE VERY YOUNG WHO ARE MOST VULNERABLE.  So can someone explain to me why, in God's green earth, we would not also vaccinate our children against this virus?  Too busy with work?  I'll show you too busy with work and raise you one week of absence as you freak out in hospital next to your child as he/she labours to breathe.   Doubt they will actually get sick?  Then why teach them road safety, put bike helmets on their heads, scrutinize consumer reports on child safety seats and buy BPA free drink bottles - what are the odds they will get hit by a car/crack their head on the sidewalk/be in a car accident/have chemicals mutate their genetic codes?  And why are these chances so many parents are unwilling to take, yet a simple vaccine is just too much trouble?

And why am I so angry, so livid, so frustrated?  I don't know exactly - except on the same day that a young, healthy, beloved and reknowned scientist here in Ottawa died from H1N1, people close to me were clogging up our already over-burdened health system with their unvaccinated child (too busy to get it done, too inconvenient, too much "fear mongering") in an emergency room over  mild fever and a runny nose.  Sure, they had time to sit in emergency for hours, exposing him to a multitude of illnesses and sights a young child should not be seeing - but not enough time or interest to have headed the wisdom of the WHO, public health specialists, and governments - and simply gotten him vaccinated. 

It's like countries where people walk and then line up for days to exercise their right to vote in elections; here we act like it is a burden we must, heavy sigh and much complaining, try to get around to if we feel like it at the moment.  In far too many places people - mothers - cry out for public health services, vaccines etc., to ensure the health and saftey of their children;  here we toss our heads and bemoan the inconvenience or worse simply ignore the medical advice.  Is this what we have become, we the privileged of the world?  A population made up of those who simply will not take the time, the effort or the interest to be informed, to protect the young, to value the fragility of our children's lives?

So, I find I cry easily these days.  Not for long, as I hate drama and public (or private) displays of emotion.  But I cry quietly, at the oddest things, at the oddest times.  And under the tears is an anger new to me.


  1. Gulp. I hear your anger, feel it. I do not share your thoughts on the H1N1 vaccine, but I recognize the fury at people who are complacent, entitled, and great impositions on others, or on society in general. Over time, I have come to recognize that, for me, generalized anger at other people means I'm hurting deeply inside. The unending reservoir of rage I have toward my mother is a good example. After dealing with her, I'm not simply angry at her, I'm angry at the world and condemning everyone to an eternity in hell. I am grateful that this anger is slowly subsiding (though it can flare in a second), and that I am increasingly able to connect, at a visceral level, the anger I feel toward her with the love I feel for her and cannot bear to have unrequited.

    You say you are crying at the drop of a hat these days -- it sounds to me like something else may be going on and that ranting at people with a carefree attitude toward the vaccine is an outlet, if not a cause for your anger. The story you tell about Winston is heartwrenching! Oh God, may I never have to see my child suffer so, and experience such fear as you have felt for the fragility of his little life! Just to think of it is almost sickmaking.

    But is remembering the fear and pain of that experience also a way to let out emotion that is throttling you? You may well be on the verge of a revelation or discovery that is presently eluding you. (I feel like a kooky fortune teller! Yikes.)

    But anyway, let me get picky about your facts and ask you how you know that the plethora of sick kids in emergency is due to a decision not to vaccinate? In our town, it is sick season and a lot more than H1N1, which is a unique strain of flu, is going around. Couldn't they have been vaccinated and yet still be sick? The regular flu shot is available, but it's far from a guarantee against sickness, and some people, if they're already sick with a cold, allergies, or flu, are either advised not to get the shot or get sicker if they do get it.

    But then, I really don't know what the situation in CA is -- perhaps the media is talking about H1N1 in a different way, and perhaps the government is concerned about the effectiveness of the H1N1 vaccine if some people decline to get vaccinated. Here, the vaccine isn't yet widely available -- schools and health centers say they will have it in a few weeks (but they keep delaying). And doctors are also not running H1N1 tests because of the expense, and we are told the symptoms of H1N1 are not as severe as those of the regular flu.

    Well, Kate, I do hope you feel better soon! Keep writing, as a way to discover what's eating you.

  2. Many, many thanks for your comments - and you are right, I am angry about other things but am chosing to instead deflect my anger elsewhere...hardly new for me. But your words were kind and insightful - and helped put me back on track a bit, so thank you.

    Re: H1N1 - the children's hospital here had until just this past week deferred all non-essential surgeries, canceled all treatments that could be postponed, redeployed all staff that they could to the emergency room to be able to deal with the influx of "flu" cases. Some were H1N1. Thankfully, most were not. But to take a child to emergency for a simple sniffle and a mild fever is ridiculous, especially as the people to whom I refered had a qualified family doctor, had watched the child sniffle for days without taking him to their family doctor, and had poo-poo'd the vaccine as too bothersome to get. No, instead they went to emergency, exposed him to no end of other germs, not to mention the inevitable horrors an emergency room sees routinely.

    As well, here in Ottawa, a mass vaccination campaign has been underway for weeks with a number of vaccination clinics set up at community centres and hockey arenas to vaccinate the priory populations (children under 5, people with chronic health diseases and their caregivers). Today, they have started vaccinating all age groups.

    H1N1 has been front page news on the local paper and the national paper for weeks - and lead story on news programs. Parliament's question period has been dominated by the government's seemingly ineffective pandemic planning practices; all heightened by several sudden deaths of otherwise healthy local young children from H1N1.

    You are quite right - it seems to be the case that for the majority of people, H1N1 will amount to nothing more than a bad flu. The kicker is, there is no predicting who it will kill - and it has killed otherwise healthy young babies and children here. And that is what is so unusual with this virus; flu season always results in deaths - but this one seems to be more dangerous in the very young, which is atypical of influenza strains. So, I say, why take the chance with the health and the lives of my children. They've been vaccinated against all the other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) because this is what will help to keep them healthy and eliminate the chance of serious and debilitating secondary effects. In my mind, this is no different. Maybe they would have gotten H1N1, maybe not. Maybe they would have contracted whooping cough, maybe not. But chances of this happening now, thanks to vaccines, is slim to none.

    Maybe too much of my career has been spent fighting hard for public health services for the most vulnerable of this country's population. Maybe I miss that work now that I have changed assignments. Maybe I just am at the end of my otherwise pragmatic rope with the some in my family. Guess I should try and figure it out....keep your fingers crossed for me. It will likely be a bumpy road!

  3. Yes, as I suspected, I really don't know the situation on H1N1 -- it seems now people are saying, you included, that it's killing healthy people. I'm likely going to have my kids vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available for a number of reasons, but what lingers in my mind is an NPR discussion I heard some time ago in which a doctor suggested that this particular vaccine had a higher risk of long term negative effects than other well-established vaccines. But I've had countless informational brochures that say it is made in precisely the same way as other vaccines, and that there is no more risk involved than there is with a flu shot.
    My sister thinks that the vaccine is something to be avoided at all costs, but then she is a holistic nut case.

    So, I need to get my facts straight, talk to our pediatrician, and get all my questions answered. And here's another concern -- both my kids have had the flu this year. If it was H1N1, isn't it advisable that they NOT be vaccinated?

  4. I think you've got the best approach - namely talking with your pediatrician.

    Winston will be off this weekend to get his second H1N1 vaccine - children under 3 get a only a half dose the first time and then the remainder 21 days later. I'll be rolling up my sleeve along side will spouse despite much grumbling!

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