It is with a very, very heavy heart that I write this. I recently learned that a member of our community, known to most as "Lilady", passed away. She was a vocal and fierce advocate for public health and children, especially those with special needs. Her own son suffered physical and intellectual issues due to a rare genetic disorder, ultimately predeceasing her in his 20s. She also helped care for the son of her dear friends, who similarly suffered from multiple medical issues, including profound mental retardation and autistic-like behaviors. Until her death, she visited him every week.
In her youth, she saw first-hand what diseases like polio could do, with the virus taking the life of one of her childhood friends. She also once mentioned how a cousin was left with permanent brain injury due to measles encephalopathy. These early experiences inspired her to pursue a career as a public health nurse. Her years as a licensed registered nurse and epidemiologist gave her particular insight into infectious diseases and how they could best be controlled. Lilady dedicated herself to improving the lives of others.
Lilady has been an active voice online, particularly on the topic of
vaccinations. She was often one of the first to respond to anti-vaccine
myths on news articles from around the country. I first "met" Lilady over on the blog Respectful Insolence. We eventually corresponded via
email, and her passion for science and justice always inspired me. She
never shirked from telling the hard truths, even if it meant being
perceived as gruff or "mean". And it was amazing to see her in action
across the web. Whenever a news story cropped up on autism or vaccines,
just as surely as anti-vaccine activists would swoop in to fill the
comments with myths and nonsense, you could be sure that Lilady would be
there, too, to counter them with science and fact.
She has been a great friend to many of us, offering support and comfort in our own times of need. I am honored to have known her, and my one regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet her in person. My thoughts go out to her family and friends.
I invite my readers to share their own memories of Lilady in the comments in celebration of her life.
Other tribute posts around the 'net:
Autismum - Goodbye, Lilady RN
Just the Vax - In Remembrance of Lilady
Left Brain Right Brain - Lilady: goodbye, old friend
Medium.com (@EpiRen) - The People You Thought Were Immortal
Respectful Insolence - In Memoriam: lilady
Skeptical Raptor - Lilady RN – A Memory of a Passionate Vaccine Supporter