Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If Everyone Else Had Done It, I Didn't Need To - Rachel's Story

I learned about the following story from Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy. The video is one of many stories you'll find at Shot by Shot.

In the video, a woman named Rachel tells the story of her daughter, Lola's, battle with measles when she was 3 years old. Rachel had chosen not to vaccinate Lola, and, after the little girl was exposed to measles at a friend's birthday party, an unfortunately unexpected course of events occurred.

Lola began showing signs of a cold: severe cough, high fever. She became sensitive to light and avoided being touched. Lola also developed a common complication of measles: an ear infection. The infection was so bad that it perforated her ear drum, leaving her mostly deaf. And this all occurred before the tell-tale rash appeared. Finally, Rachel found a GP who had seen measles before and was able to diagnose it in Lola. The girl, who by this point was miserable and in poor health from the virus, was taken to the hospital. While at the hospital, her breathing difficulties worsened and she was placed on IV antibiotics to prevent opportunistic bacterial infections. Somewhat extreme measures (steroids and nebulizers) were required to keep her airways open so she could breathe on her own.

As Rachel recounts, Lola recovered from measles, but her hearing is still damaged, leaving her mostly deaf because of the perforated ear drum. She will not benefit from a hearing aid. The deafness has affected her speech and self-confidence.

Rachel, if you happen to read this, I am so very sorry that you, your family and especially Lola had to go through this ordeal. Perhaps your sharing your story will help other families realize just what this "innocent" childhood disease can do.

Often in discussions of vaccines and the diseases they prevent, much is made of the deaths that result from the disease. How many per thousand who are infected are likely to die? But as Rachel's story shows, even when a child has the much more likely outcome of survival, there may still be lasting effects that profoundly affect their lives and the lives of their families. And the saddest part of all this is that diseases like measles are very easy to prevent.

Rachel told her story so that others will not have to go through what she did.


  1. (Hi, just an important tech issue I thought you might have missed. The above video "Rachel's Story" has also apparently replaced the video from two posts down "The Callous Face of Hubris" (which I believe used to contain a particularly good Australian 60 Minutes piece?). Either way, something's gone goofy there, and I'd hate Rachel to see her video under the mistaken heading of "Callous Face of Hubris"! Feel free to delete this comment after you've read it.)

  2. Everything seems to be working for me. I know there were some issues yesterday (6/22) with Rachel's Story being slow to load. Take another look and let me know if things are still wonky for you.

  3. Hi Todd,

    After coming back a couple more times I've noticed that sometimes the video a couple of posts below, is the correct one (60 Minutes), sometimes it is a repeat of the "Rachel's Story" video from above (so that the vid appears twice on your main page). Chances are the problem is only at my end for some reason, since no one else has noticed it and it looks fine to you. No idea why I'm having this problem - hasn't happened to me before - but in all liklihood it's nothing you can fix at your end. Thanks anyway.


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