could have been saved

“You were in a coma for two days, Deborah. I was so scared.”

Whenever my mom said these words, she spoke with such calm that I couldn’t really imagine her then-terror. Besides, I’d lived, hadn’t I? Wasn’t my surviving always inevitable?

It was only when it came time to vaccinate my own son that I began comprehending the gravity of my mom’s words. That I began to understand how absolutely terrifying it must have been for her, in those moments when she held my tiny, non-responsive body and prayed, with no guarantee whatsoever that I would survive.

When it came time for my Li’l D to receive his DTaP vaccination, fear flooded me; my son’s doctor, immediately noting that something in my demeanor had changed, asked me what was up. I told her that I’d had a serious adverse reaction to the DTP vaccine when I was a child. I told her that I knew it had since been reworked to be much more safe, but that the knowing didn’t feel very comforting to me just then.

(What if I ended up holding my non-responsive baby the way my mom once held me? What if the story ended differently? What if?!)

She told me she understood. Then she spoke words that helped put things in perspective for me:

“I’ve never lost a child to vaccination, but I’ve lost children who could have been saved by vaccination.”

Guided by her insight then, I chose vaccination.

Since then, I’ve read hundreds of books on politics, power, and history. Aware of broader sociopolitical contexts, I am much less trustful in the existence of broadly noble intentions of powerful governmental and corporate agents.

And yet: When I was recently asked to opt in or out of taking a COVID vaccine, I immediately opted in. Simply put, I’ve read far too much about “long COVID,” the constellation of devastating long-term impacts experienced by many survivors, to misunderstand COVID as “just another flu.”

If I’d been asked to opt in for either or both of my children, I would have answered the same: Yes. Yes, yes, yes—and that answer would have been the same even before “my” hospital lost its first child to post-COVID Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) last week.

For children or adults, COVID is not “just another flu.” Many who survive do so with significantly compromised bodily systems and quality of life.

Is any vaccine completely without risk? Probably not, even in an alternate reality filled with trustworthy assurances no production corners would ever be cut.

But, for me, the question remains: Which risk is greater? The risks from the vaccine, or the risks that flow from not being vaccinated?

For me, now even more than a decade ago, the answer continues to resound in my memory of one pediatrician’s words:

“I’ve never lost a child to vaccination, but I’ve lost children who could have been saved by vaccination.”

One thought on “could have been saved

  1. I had a serious reaction to the same vaccine back in the day. I will be lining up for this one, when it’s my turn. Too many stories of long-term lung and heart damage. Life is risk. I, too, do what you do — think it through then make the best choice at the time.


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