The teacher handed out magazine articles to each of us, instructing us to create a story based on the cuttings. Mine was about a baby whose mother had taken the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy. I couldn't pronounce the drug's name, but the picture of the child, with its shortened arms was shocking and memorable. Unbelievably, this gross malformation had been caused by a drug given to combat sickness during pregnancy. It made me shudder.
Two decades later I became a mother myself and was fortunate to have a healthy boy, at least for the first year or so. Eight days after having the MMR vaccine he developed an allergic reaction; a few weeks later he experienced his first epileptic seizure. It's been a harrowing journey of seizures, hospital admissions and trials of many anti-convulsant drugs in various combinations.
Events were overwhelmingly dramatic when in 1998 the seizures took total control. The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit became our home and our only hope. A last-resort treatment failed. Emergency neuro surgery was the only route and a section of his brain was removed. This did not bring about a happy-ever-after ending and there were complications. Two further emergency neurosurgeries were performed but, 9 years later, epilepsy still persists.
Because of our assertion that our son's seizures were caused by the MMR vaccine the excised brain tissue was tested and found to harbour the measles virus.
My son had never contracted wild measles, so I knew the measles virus was the one injected into his little body via the MMR vaccine. A further test confirmed this as vaccine strain virus. I had envisaged that these results would have aroused the interest of paediatricians, neurologists, professors and scientists. At best the revelations were met with guarded interest. Surely, the Department of Health would jump to attention if there was even a hint that the MMR could be responsible for neurological damage in very young children. Without investigating the Department of Health issued yet another of its blanket denials.
At age 9, in intensive care, our son asked me, "I'm not going to die, am I?" I hoped I was lying when I reassured him, "Of course not, darling".
Years later he now asks, "Who's going to look after me when you're both dead?" Who indeed? Let's just say independence is, sadly, way out of his reach.
So far he's been damaged by chemicals designed to protect him from diseases, ignored, let down by our legal system and rejected by the Vaccine Damage Payments Unit.
The effects of Thalidomide are well documented and widely accepted. One day, hopefully in my lifetime, the effects of the MMR will be acknowledged.