Dear Dr. Jenny McCarthy
This is written by a childhood theater friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. The perspective is brilliant and I'm re-printing it here with their permission.
Dear Dr. Jenny McCarthyHello there,
So I have for the last few years, read about things you have said about vaccines being responsible in part for your sons Autistic diagnosis. And I get that you have walked away from some of those things now that you have gotten basically "death threats". But now, since measles is back, and I’m sure other things are around the corner, I felt compelled to speak.
My father got Polio one month after his 17th birthday. It was his senior year in High School. To give you an idea of what sort of life he was having, He was the President of the class, quarterback on the football team, a Yell leader, and was, as my uncles friend Butch once said, "The only kid on the block we knew who was destined for college." He was also one of the first eagle scouts in Contra Costa County. He woke up one morning with back pain and feverish. But he knew if he were not to show up for school he could not play in the football game that afternoon. So he went.
He didn't last long. He left school early and walked to the doctor’s office.
There he was misdiagnosed with a slipped disc.
They put him in traction. It was like clearing a road way for an Indy 500 car. The fever hit him hard, the virus took off, and he was out for about 4 days.
When he woke up, he was in the polio ward at USFMC.
For the three months he was in isolation he saw many things. Kids in iron lungs. Kids who were learning to re walk. Little children left to see their parents through long windows waving at them.
He also saw, a newspaper roughly two weeks after he got the disease, stating, "SALK DISCOVERS POLIO VACCINE! TRIALS IN SCHOOLS COMING SOON."
Can you imagine it?
No you can't can you? Well maybe if you are older than 55. But if you are younger you can't. Cause you got a vaccine for Polio when you were a baby. And now you don't have it. And if you are lucky you don't know anyone with it.
For a certain amount of time, he had to wear braces on both legs. From the hip. Once out of them, he swore he would never wear them again.
His best friend in the world, a man who knew him before and for 60 years after, told me that while "Your dad was the same, He was different. Polio changed the colour in his eyes. He was mad as hell, and was not going to let it beat him."
He went to college. He walked into the admissions office at Berkeley, and without a full senior year of any one subject, talked them into taking him. Tuition back then was 50 bucks a semester. Pretty amazing.
He got married, and had four kids. When I was about 6 we were traveling and every once in a while, his legs would give out and he would fall. I remember him saying to my mother, " I think I need to get a cane. What if I pull one of the kids down with me and we are in a cross walk?" You see when we would walk with him, my dad would always put his hand on our shoulders, for balance. It was never a burden. For a man who needed very little, it was a nice thing to know we were helping him. He went to a store and got a cane. Over the years he bought many canes. Fancy ones... standard "need to go out into the garden and weed," ones.... ones made of gorgeous cherry stained wood... He amassed quite a collection.
He has endured many injuries in his years walking. He broke his leg countless times. Polio leeches the muscles and bones of vitality. So breaking a bone ravaged by Polio is like snapping a green bean in half. I've watched him soak his feet and legs in Epsom salt, and once in a while get talked into wearing a brace on one leg. But never for long. He just couldn't tolerate it.
He has seen specialist after specialist. Heard fatalistic statistics, and how he should be grateful he's alive. He has with great trepidation watched his children have hospital stays which have made him batty, as while also being our father, he has been a long term patient and it makes his skin crawl.
It has defined him. He has a low tolerance for feeling sorry for yourself. If you didn't think you could do something, like I once had to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen my bad one, something I rebelled fiercely against, he reminded me that I had too. No choice was given. That life sucks sometimes. But if I tried hard, like he had too when he got Polio, that I would make it. You can't beat a "Crippling disease," argument. Well, maybe my brother can, but that’s a whole other story in itself.
Growing up with a father who had these issues, meant that there was no one to teach me how to swing a bat for softball. Or do a cartwheel. There was no impromptu dancing in our house. The frustration for him was palpable as he verbally tried his best to instruct us in various things. But reality is reality and on some level, I don't believe any of us are worse off. In fact, I think the man he became was better at a lot of things. We are champions of argument. We tend to not get emotional when advocating for ourselves or our loved ones. In fact we live knowing our hard attitudes about certain things make us difficult. But living with a man who had this happen to him, made us remember that not having fans in every town was not the end of the world. He taught us LIFE skills.
For instance, my dad taught me that I could get through anything. You see, he's now in a wheel chair. A place he would never have wanted to be years ago. But he lost mobility due to a shoulder surgery he had to have. He couldn't walk, and couldn’t keep the last bits of strength he had to walk in play. I would have thought a wheel chair would have destroyed his spirit. But when he got into a motorized one and realized how advanced they were.... He got used to it. He never let it stop him. He watches over all of us like hawks. HE's controlling sometimes, but I know in some ways it’s because the heart break of losing all you know over a few days of your seventeenth year can make you hold very tight to that which you get back.
Now of course there are many many other diseases we can become ill from. Pertussis, and mumps, and lots of others. The "Herd mentality" back then meant if you got Chicken Pox, so did every other kid in your house because your mother was going to get it all over at once. My siblings and I all had chicken pox at the same time. My oldest brother, had it everywhere. My youngest brother had a single pox mark on his butt. I was somewhere in the middle.
I have had meningitis, and shingles, two illness's I would not wish on a living soul. Last week when the lad (my son,) went for his well child check-up he had to get a meningitis shot. When he balked saying, "What's the big deal?" I nearly smacked him over the head with a chair. Meningitis is no joke. I had the best form. Viral. 12 days in isolation with a 2 month recovery. My cousin Scott, whom I never knew, got it as a baby. Spinal. The most deadly. A "sick at 12, gone by 4" sort of thing.
My father has been my example in all this. Because for as much as he has accomplished with Polio... he would not wish it on anyone. And if he could have avoided getting it he would have. Of course, he had no choice back then.
And that’s really what we are talking about right? Choice. If you are against it for whatever reason, not only do you risk yours and your child’s life, but you risk mine as well because your strain...may be a new one. One that would never have come about if you hadn't made such a rich host with which to feed upon. And I don't give you permission to risk my life. Or that of my kid.
Get a grip. You are on a pulpit. Of course it’s a pulpit of stupid people, but it’s a pulpit none the less. And those stupid people are running out, neglecting their duties as parents, and then hiding like cowering ashamed deer. Well you know what? Parts of being a parent are the hard choices you make. I have had to walk my kid through brain surgery. Believe me when I say if I had allowed myself a moment to let it sink in I wouldn't be here. If I had said "You don't have too," HE WOULDN'T BE HERE. It’s about making the hard choices and knowing that sometimes life is not fun, or easy.
Your son clearly has come a long way since his initial diagnosis. When you spoke of him speaking at your wedding and how that was hard for him, I felt for you. Knowing that somewhere locked inside of our children, is all the things we take for granted is soul destroying. But not if you don't let it be. Not if you look it in the eye and tell it to FUCK RIGHT OFF. Your son will hopefully always know, as my father taught me, disabled does not mean un-abled.
I wish you luck. and I wish for your son, everything he needs, and that EVERYONE gets their kids vaccinated.