Tag Archives: childhood diseases

Remembering a Time Before Vaccines! And Knowing that Vaccinations Save Lives.

12 Feb

Chicken pox, measles, German measles, mumps….I’ve had them all. And I did not like them. I did not like the constant itching of those horrible rashes. I did not like the swelling of my face. When my brother got mumps my parents were frantic…this is a disease that causes young men to become sterile.   Luckily not my brother, but others were impacted by this now obsolete childhood disease, or somewhat obsolete.

I remember the summer we all had chicken pox. It was miserable. We were in the Catskills and could not leave our bungalow. I was the last one to get them. Everyone else was outside playing. And I watched from the porch. My mom was so exhausted by that time that she was sitting outside as well. I know she was happy that there was finally only one sick child, and not three. I remember swinging on the screen door of the porch pushing the envelop of being outside because I wanted so much to be with everyone else.

We got the measles in Jersey during the school year. One week after the other we broke out in these horrible rashes. German measles was the same. I hated them.

Luckily for my children’s generation, there were vaccinations for most diseases, but not for chicken pox. My daughter’s case was horrifying. Her chicken pox were internal. Hardly any showing on the outside, but her mouth and throat was covered. She would cough up and vomit scabs. I freaked out. Luckily my husband is a pediatrician and could deal much better with this. By the time my son had chicken pox, I was much better prepared.

I was so happy that they were not going to get other childhood diseases like whooping cough and diphtheria, both stopped by vaccines. And we cannot forget the important T of the DPT, tetanus. Thank goodness no one ever has to get lock jaw or tetanus anymore. A vaccination will keep you safe.

I remember the small pox vaccine. There was a needle with many little needles that was stuck into me.   I am one of the few who do not carry the scar from this vaccine. But I am so glad I never got small pox.

As for polio, each summer we went to the Catskills for two reasons: first to be with family and friends and second to escape from the city where polio was rampant in the summers.  Those of us who were away for the summer, out of the hot crowded cities were much more likely to avoid this horrible disease.

I still remember standing on a very long line at the public school in North Bergen, New Jersey: so many children and their parents. The line seemed to go on forever. As we reached the front of the line, we were given a sugar cube. Delicious. At the time I did not realize it was soaked in polio vaccine. All I know now is that I walk and I breathe. Thank you for saving so many lives with this amazing discovery.

As we watch the measles reclaim our country, I am stunned. I hear unbelievable comments from politicians who say a parent has a right over his child’s body, I am so amazed. These same politicians tell us that a woman has no right to use birth control or chose to terminate a pregnancy and that the government needs to make laws against it. But at the same time they say that a parent can chose not to vaccinate their child! What type of hypocrisy is this? A major one!

My husband is a pediatric immunologist/allergist. He has devoted his life to helping children. He is amazed that people do not want to vaccinate their children! And do not get mad at the doctor who does not want to treat unvaccinated children and then get mad at a doctor in whose waiting room dozens of children are exposed to measles. It is not the doctor’s fault that people do not have their children vaccinated.

I wonder how far these anti-vaccination people actually go? Do they not have their children vaccinated against polio? Do they understand the ramifications?

And as for our politicians who are supposed to be leading our country and helping its citizens, they need to be voted out of office if you think vaccinations are not necessary. They are a disgrace.

Instead of believing a fraudulent medical study that was disproven years ago, parents have got to realize, Vaccinations Save Lives.

Do not go back to the days of misery that I remember from my childhood.

A Night in the Hospital Used To Be a Nightmare for Children

26 Oct


My actual Candy Striper Hat from the early 1970s.  I had to wear it at the hospital.

My actual Candy Striper Hat from the early 1970s. I had to wear it at the hospital.

When I was a sophomore at North Bergen High School I volunteered as a Candy Striper at North Hudson Hospital on Park Avenue, in Weehawken, New Jersey. For about a year I went once or twice a week after school or on the weekend to work mainly in the children’s wing, doing whatever the nursing staff requested. I also made origami animals for the children in the wards.

In those days there were strict visiting hours. Parents could not spend the day, much less the night with their children. And children were often lonely and scared. Since I was allowed there at times other than visiting hours, I could visit with the children. Making the origami figures cheered them up. I always gave my creations to the children when I was done. I worked enough hours to earn my 100-hour pin and more.

My volunteering came about because of my sister and my own experience in the hospital. When I was six, I had tonsillitis. For months I had tests and blood tests. They told my parents I had leukemia, which then was a death sentence. It turned out that I only had tonsillitis. What a relief! But I needed my tonsils out!

I remember my Dad taking me to the hospital in the morning and promising to be with me all the way. But after the nurses took me on the gurney to the elevator, my Dad was left behind when the elevator doors closed. I remember screaming for him all the way to the operating room.

I was traumatized. So was my Dad. He told me years later that he would hear the sound of my screaming in his dreams.

Because of this horrible experience, when my own daughter needed surgery when she was six, I looked for options.   Things had changed over the years, but most important I am married to a pediatrician.   We knew the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. My husband was allowed to scrub in and go with our daughter into the operating room. Once she was under the anesthesia he had to leave. But at least she was not alone, like I was so many years before.

It was not only this event that made me want to be a Candy Striper. I was hospitalized several times as a child for bronchitis, which I found out later in my life, was asthma. Those few days alone in the hospital without my parents, except for short visits were horrible. Scared and alone, I would often cry.

But the worst was my sister. When she was in elementary school she had an emergency appendectomy.   The surgery went fine, but they put her in a room with other children and she developed all sorts of diseases: strep throat, a staph infection and more. She was in the hospital for over two weeks.

It was a horrible time for my family. I remember my parents crying and worrying. They were only allowed in the hospital for a short period two or three times a day. Traveling back and forth was difficult. My parents were both working. My brother and I were not allowed to see her, as children were not allowed in the hospital.   I remember going there one time and sitting in the car in the parking lot. My Mom went upstairs and my sister waved to us from the window, we got out of the car and waved back.

My sister finally came home. But she was home from school for another two weeks. We were a totally stressed out family by this point. Everyone was on edge and scared. That two-week period is nothing compared to what other families faced. Not being able to be there made it so much worse!

Life is so much better now that parents able to visit their sick child in the hospital whenever they like, even to spend the night with them. Not that anyone should get sick. But at least if they are sick, parents are allowed all the access they need and want. Children’s hospitals do all they can to make hospitalizations as easy as possible. Bright colors and decorations make the hospital look cheerful. The scary old look of hospitals is eliminated as much as possible in today’s children’s hospitals.

Another change is the limited time spent in the hospital. When I had my tonsils out in 1961, I spent two nights in the hospital. When my daughter had her surgery she was sent home that evening, partly because my husband would be home in case of an emergency. But even if she stayed, it would have been for less than 24 hours. (I will admit that I spent the night on the floor of our daughter’s bedroom.)

Part of the reason for the limited hospital stay is exactly what happened to my sister. Patients in the hospital have infectious and contagious diseases. It is best not to be around them. Now children have private rooms with space for the parents to stay. Then my sister was in a room with at least one other child at all times. There was no room for parents. And the other occupant could spread disease.

So with this history, as soon as I was of the right age, I volunteered at the North Hudson Hospital to help children. I had a great time for about a year. Then something happened. All I knew is that I was in the office of the head of volunteering and my Dad came to get me.   I honestly did not remember what happened, except that I was sick to my stomach.

I never went back to the hospital after that. And I decided I never wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. (I still think it is strange that I married a doctor.) But I kept my Candy Striper hat because I was proud of what I had done.

Years later, I was telling my daughter about being a Candy Striper and how I loved being with the children. She asked why I stopped. I told her I really did not know. My Dad happened to be with us during this conversation. He said, “You don’t remember? You went into the wrong room. A man had, who had been in a car accident, died, and you passed out.”

No wonder why I have always hated the sight of blood and disliked going to the hospital. It all made sense. But I am glad I volunteered for the time I did.

Luckily for me, my children never had to spend the night at a hospital. But over the years, many of my friends’ children have had surgeries or have had to spend a night. I am so glad their experiences are so much better than they were in the 1960s! I am so glad that parents and family can visit and give the children the love and support that they need. I am glad that it no longer is a nightmare for children who are sick to spend the night in the hospital.