So for the past nine weeks, I have been coughing, A LOT. It’s worse at night but it’s bad during the day too. It’s annoying, painful, and embarrassing. My kids are suffering because I’m too tired to play, cook and do things that I normally do… like laundry. Blogging? Blowdrying my hair? Forget about it. It’s all I think about… can I make it through this trip to Whole Foods with out a coughing attack? What if I have an attack while I’m driving with the kids in the car? What if I have an attack at Leo’s school? People stare and people move away from me. I’m getting used to it. We don’t go to the playground anymore. I can explain that I am not contagious, but I sound like I am. I get it. I wouldn’t want to sit by me on a plane. I’m becoming forgetful just from lack of sleep… forgetting little things like grabbing orange juice when I am at the grocery store to big things like losing a treasured piece of jewelry. In short, I am a disaster.
The cough started at the very end of October between now and then I have seen four different doctors- I’ve taken antibiotics, steroids, acid reflux medicine, allergy medication, I even have my own nebulizer now. None of it worked. No one could figure out what was wrong with me until last week when bloodwork confirmed that I have pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough.
I cannot explain how much pertussis sucks. At night I have one violent coughing spasm after another. I gag on my own spit. I cough so hard that I vomit. I cough so hard that I pee. I cough so hard that I have terrible headaches and my whole body hurts from the effort of coughing. I haven’t slept for a stretch longer than two hours in over two months now. I wake up my kids with my cough. I have been coughing for 9 weeks and I will probably be coughing for at least another month. There is no treatment for pertussis.
The only positive aspect of this is that I have managed to lose weight despite my pizza and peppermint bark diet and all of the coughing has had a kind of Kardashian-esque effect on my lips.
Everyone in our family is vaccinated for pertussis and everyone else is fine. Lucy received her first dose of the vaccine about a week before I caught this. Vaccinating our children (and ourselves) was an easy decision for us. I remember my first meeting with our former pediatrician, who has since passed; he was a man in his late 70s with a lot of controversial opinions, but on vaccines he was clear. He had lived in a time where children got polio and babies died of whooping cough and he seen first hand the positive change that vaccines had brought. He talked about herd immunity and how we need to vaccinate ourselves and our children to protect those who can’t be vaccinated- babies and children with compromised immune systems. It all made a ton of sense to me. I did look into the movement against vaccines briefly but all of the arguments that I read had been debunked by so many studies that it didn’t affect our decision in the slightest.
I want to be mad at all of the anti-vaxers (and there are a lot of them in Los Angeles), Jenny McCarthy and Jay Gordon, they are certainly the reason this terrible disease is back with a vengeance and that I am currently suffering. But the fact of the matter is that there is a lot of scary information out there. I don’t think that they are right, but I think that the anti-vaxers are parents who are fearful of “vaccine injury” and other things that seems plausible when you read them on the internet. I know a good portion of the kids at Leo’s preschool and in our neighborhood aren’t vaccinated and I can’t say that I have met any parents there that seem ignorant or stupid. On the contrary, they are smart and kind people who love their children immeasurably. Until I was diagnosed last week, whooping cough was something that I heard about on the news or read about in novels; it wasn’t something I was terribly worried about or thought would ever touch me or my children. Why vaccinate your child against something that they are so unlikely to contract if there is even the slightest risk that the vaccine could cause them harm, right?
Let me tell you. You do not want your child to get this. Though I am all kinds of miserable, it would be a thousand times worse to have to watch your child go through this and not be able to do anything to help them. Pertussis symptoms are worse in children and can it can even be fatal to babies. Even though the vaccine didn’t protect me (it’s about 80 percent effective), it protected my children and for that I am grateful.
The simple fact is that the more people that vaccinate, the more likely we are to stop this thing. I wish I could change the mind of just one anti-vaxxer, but I have tried before and I found the experience about on par with repeatedly banging my head into the wall. I know that this outbreak might have to get worse for it to get better. As long as parents view pertussis as something that “other people” get and not a direct threat to their children weather or not to vaccinate their kids is on par with deciding when to turn your car seat forward-facing or weather or not to give your baby a vitamin D supplement. The decision to vaccinate your kids isn’t just about your kids. It’s about your kid’s friends, little brothers and sister, parents and grandparents.
So if you’re reading this blog, maybe you know me from high school, college, work, because or kids are friends or you stumbled upon this page on WordPress. So now you know someone who has had whooping cough, who can tell you first hand that how terrible it is. So don’t think of whooping cough as something that other people get, think of it as something that your friend, Lisa, caught and suffered through. Consider that when deciding to vaccinate yourself and your children.
(written while coughing)