What A MMR Vaccine Reaction Can Look Like

The vaccine debate was all over the news earlier this year with the recent Disneyland cases and it took a turn for the nasty. I’m sure you’re aware of that though, you couldn’t turn on your computer or t.v. without being bombarded by it.

I’ve seen the articles that friends have shared.

I’ve read the comments.

I’ve been called stupid, unable to comprehend science, told I’m endangering lives, that I should be jailed, that I should be fined for every month my kids lapse on a vaccine, that my kids should be labeled, that we shouldn’t be allowed in public places, that I need to tell every person who’s birthday party we are ever invited to where we stand on the issue so they can deem if my children are safe to be around theirs. The list goes on…

I’ve wanted to comment back, clicked the button, started to type, but then better judgement settles in and I close the window, I walk away.

Because I know, I do, that at the bottom of this, we’re all being driven by the same passion. The passion to protect our children the best way we know how. And that passion is what is fueling you to attack my family, and I don’t appreciate it, but I get it.

It’s the same passion that is causing me to dig my heels in harder and fight for my family’s right to make the choice for what’s best for them. I’ve shared our story before, but thought it was important to re-share our experience. Not to scare others, or use fear tactics to get you to change your mind, but because I think it’s especially important right now for others to hear it. To know why we have made our decisions, and that you aren’t getting the whole story through the news outlets and “science reports”. It also is not included in that inaccurate number of vaccine reactions they like to report.

There is no doubt in my mind, that the events on this day began the downward spiral of Kingston’s health.

Here is our story, three years later and the images are still as fresh today as when they happened. I still tear up reading this. It is true some things you can’t unsee and haunt you forever…

The following was originally written August 2012.

I always wonder what the story is behind the rushing ambulances that pass me on the road. I always say a prayer for the people inside and hope that their family is okay. I never imagined having my own tale of an ambulance ride, I couldn’t have imagined why.

I’ve procrastinated this post. I find myself able to discuss with ease the event in person, there is something about putting the emotions into written word that are more difficult. I find myself choking back tears before I’ve even put many words down. The terror of those few moments flooding my mind with images I wish I could erase, but are etched there forever. Even though I know how things turned out, even though I know things will be ok, that fear it still haunts me.

I’ve wanted to write it down here though. I want to keep a record of the fun and happy events in Kingston’s life, and the bad stuff too. Also I wanted anyone else that reads this to know what happened in case they find themselves in the same scary situation. So get settled, this is going to be a long post …

In late June 2012, we had been spending a few days with my family at a beach house in New Smyrna. Jeremy had a lot of work, so he spent his days working, but in the evenings he would take Kingston down to the shore and play in the sand and water. Wednesday, June 27th, was no different. Dinner was cooking and the boys headed to the beach for some pre-dinner play. Kingston was on Jeremy’s shoulders and my dad and Mason were a short distance behind on the steps taking pictures. Kingston was laughing and smiling and having a good time as is evident in these pictures …

A Happy Boy 

Less than a minute after this picture was taken, Kingston made a strange noise, and tightened around Jeremy’s shoulders and Jeremy knew something was wrong. As he pulled him off his shoulders he noticed his eyes had rolled back and he was drooling out of his mouth. Jeremy laid him on the sand, and tried to get him to respond, but he didn’t. Jeremy quickly scooped him up and ran back toward the house. The back porch of the house was all glass and from the couch where I was laying I had a clear view of the stairs up from the beach. At first when I saw Jeremy running up, I thought they were playing, until I saw the urgency in his eyes and heard the words “CALL 911″. I have no idea what has happened at this point and as I see my dad holding Mason and running behind I immediately leap off the couch scanning everyone for blood. I meet them as they make their way into the patio and this is where it became clear to me that something is wrong with my child. As my mom runs to call 911, I hover around Kingston and Jeremy trying to find answers to what has happened, but Jeremy doesn’t know. It was probably only 30 seconds, but in those 30 seconds I panicked and started yelling at Jeremy, questioning what he could have done. My baby wasn’t breathing and was turning blue and I thought I was watching my 2 year old die in my husband’s arms. I had so many thoughts rush through my mind: what if he died, what if he came out of whatever was happening and had brain damage, what if he was different, what if I was watching my sweet, innocent baby become a whole different child.

Throughout these thoughts, my mom is still trying to reach 911, but cell service is spotty where we are and it takes a few tries to get a call through (no landline at the house). They need to know the address of our location and we don’t know it, this is what snaps me out of staring hopelessly at Kingston. As I run to find my phone which has the address in it, my mom runs out to look at the mailbox. Jeremy and my dad have already laid Kingston down and are performing CPR. (I miss all this as I’m with my mom, and I’m thankful I miss this part, I have enough images in my head, I don’t need that one too.)

Thankfully Kingston starts moaning and they know that he must be breathing in order to be making that sound. Jeremy sweeps him up and carries him outside to wait for the ambulance. I run back inside and grab Jeremy some shoes as well as the diaper bag which has all our insurance and medical info. While we wait, my grandmother and I surround Jeremy and Kingston and fervently pray for God to heal and protect our boy.

Within 2-3 minutes the fire truck has arrived and seeing that Kingston is breathing, they have us take him inside and lay him on the couch. They give him a little oxygen and stick on fake nipples (as we referred to them or nickles if you are Mason) to attach him to machines to check his vitals. The oxygen helps and within no time he is crying, yelling for mama, and straining to get the mask off. But just as fast he collapses back and starts to dose off. We are assured this is okay and common after a seizure, which is what it has been dubbed at this point, that he has exerted all his energy during the seizure and is now in recovery mode.

The ambulance arrives maybe 5 minutes later and they try to strap Kingston to a gurney, which is not happening. Instead, Jeremy is placed on the gurney with Kingston in his lap and they both are strapped in. We are loaded in the back and thus begins the very first ambulance ride for all 3 of us. As I sit on the bench across from the gurney, my hands shake as I try to fill in the forms with all of Kingston’s information. Because Kingston was breathing by this time, they decide to take us not to the nearest hospital, but to one 20 minutes away because it has a pediatric unit. They also don’t use the sirens as he is stable so there is no rush.

This ride also concludes my wonder of how much an ambulance ride costs. (Ours was just under $1000, in case you too have wondered. It would have been slightly less had we gone to a closer hospital, they charge $11/mile. Man, if only I got that kind of reimbursement back when I had to drive places at my old job.This plus the hospital and doctor bills made for one VERY expensive vaccine.)

Along the ride, Kingston is hooked to machines and all his vitals are showing normal. The tech in the back with us is very kind and gentle with Kingston, even commenting she might change her mind on having children based on how sweet and cute he is. We know Kingston is not completely back to himself when we are wheeled into the ambulance because he won’t take his paci, which never happens, but it is not long into the ride when he reaches out for it. He also smiles and gives us a few giggles, relieving some worry in both our hearts as we realize we haven’t completely lost our little boy.

We arrive through the side entrance and are immediately ushered into a room at the Halifax hospital in Daytona. We have barely made it into the room when a nurse informs us that someone needs to go to the front because there are parents wanting to know what is going on. I walk out to talk with my parents who have followed behind in their car. I have nothing new to tell them at this point, except we have a room and are waiting to find out what’s next.

Two nurses join us in Kingston’s room and we strip him of his clothes and his soiled diaper. They take his temperature rectally and it reads at 102.9. We don’t know at this point, but this is a good sign, as it helps explain to the doctor what has happen. They administer Motrin and we are left to wait for the doctor. We wait a few hours.

I have now been in an emergency room both times I have been pregnant. Both times having nothing to do with me. I wonder if the stress of this situation can have any lasting negative impacts on my now 10-week-old baby.

I also discover that whether for adults or children, doctors in the ER are seriously lacking in compassion and any sort of bedside manner. I know it is a stressful job, but would it kill you to be gentle with my baby? I would have appreciated a little less cockiness when dealing with my sick child.

The doctor explains the diagnosis of Febrile seizure. They are apparently very common (1 in 25 children experience them) and brought on by a sudden spike in temperature. (In Kingston’s case he went from no temperature to at least 103 in mere seconds.) They are terrifying, although supposedly not life threatening and supposedly do not cause permanent brain damage. Once you have experienced one your chances of having another one goes to 30-50% until you outgrow them at around 5 years old. You also need a much lower temperature to trigger one, it could happen at 100º next time.  We are told we must be diligent and always give him fever meds right away should we ever have any idea he might be coming down with any illness, even a simple cold. 

The doctor brushed off our questions on whether the MMR shot Kingston received last week could have been the culprit of the high temperature. He said no, even though our pediatrician had told us (and the MMR info sheet from the CDC states) that if Kingston had a reaction it wouldn’t be in 24 hours like other shots, this one would be 6-14 days later. This was 8 days after his shot.

In the Hospital

We were released from the ER at 11:30 p.m. after a couple hours of monitoring and watching his temperature lower. They sent us home with instructions to wake him every 3 hrs to give him Tylenol or Motrin, alternating between the two for 24 hours. We arrived home just after midnight, after a late night stop at Walgreens to pick up supplies.

Kingston went right to sleep, I on the other hand could not sleep at all. Between constant checks that he was still breathing, waking K up every 3 hours for meds (which made him very MAD), and not being able to get the images of Jeremy running up to the house with a limp Kingston out of my mind every time I closed my eyes, I was still up as the sun rose on Thursday.

The next day Kingston was up and going like nothing had happened, it was as if everything the night before had just been an awful dream.

We followed up with our pediatrician the next week, who confirmed it was indeed due to the MMR shot and he probably wouldn’t have another seizure (which as of Aug. 2015, he hasn’t, thank God!). He said, in fact, the amount of febrile seizures in kids shot up when doctors used to offer the MMR and chicken pox shot as a combo, and once it wasn’t offered anymore the numbers when down.

The crazy thing is I felt really uneasy about him getting anymore vaccines going into his 2 year check-up. I even brought up my feelings to Jeremy, but decided I was overreacting since we had already delayed these shots longer than most and he had appeared to be handling them fine. I’m still working on when I need to listen to my gut. Hello Holy Spirit, I hear you loud and clear.

I am thankful that although our experience was terrifying, it wasn’t worse. His laid back nature disappeared that day and years later we are still trying to heal our boy from the lasting effects. However he is here with us and though delayed in some areas, a typical young kid. My heart breaks for other families that haven’t been so lucky.