Friday, September 28, 2007

Books and Guts

Yesterday someone gave me a whole lot of grief for not vaccinating my baby according to the recommended schedule. It's a convoluted story about how it all came up, but she knew that I was only doing one vax at a time, and asked how often I was doing them "every two weeks?" I said no, I was doing them a couple of months apart. She got a shocked and condescending look on her face and said "but then you'll never be able to get them all done by the time he's two."
"I know, but he'll have them before he starts school."
"Oh, but he really needs them by two."
I launched into an explanation of how I have done my research, from authoritative sources such as the CDC (Betcha *she* hasn't read the pink book cover to cover, even though she's an MD!)
She looked at me as though I were insane, and said "Well, I can see you've done your research, and you have the right to make those choices for your children, but I'm glad that other parents aren't making those same choices or we would lose the herd immunity. Other parents don't ask as many questions, they just accept. You are lucky that they are getting their shots, because they are helping protect your child."
I could have hit her. She's glad that other parents don't take the time to research for their kids? That they don't question? That they don't CARE?! Oh, and I should be greatful to those uncaring parents because they are 'protecting' my child?
*deep breaths*
After the fact, I came up with a number of great retorts for her, but in the moment I was just so overwhelmed with her staunch insistence that I was doing my children a disservice by caring enough to be educated. I've spoken with other doctors who may not have agreed with me, but they at least respected that I was trying to make educated decisions.

I make my parenting choices based on three things: education, intuition, and prayer. I would venture to say that the prayer actually overlaps into the intuition, because much of the intuition is actually inspiration. I 'go with my gut,' be those feelings based on Divine guidance or on instinct. Book and Guts people. That's how I mother. I'm far from perfect, but the method is not flawed, and I think we'd have a better world if more people tried it.


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Edited to add:
A few of those responses I thought of later:
"Oh, have you read the CDC's book cover to cover? Because I have..."
"Herd immunity? Are we talking about children or sheep?"
[after she asked if family members had had reactions, and why I was worried about them] "It's not just about reactions. Giving multiple vaccines at once, or close together, gives a child toxic levels of aluminum."
[after "you'll never get done by two"] "Well thank heaven for that!" (this was my dh's response when I told him. Yay Hubby!!! He's pro vax too, but at least he has the sense to want them spread out!)
"Oh, so you're saying that good parents don't ask questions? Have you ever read 1984?"
[after "what if he got measles out here in the middle of winter"] "Well, hallelujah if he gets the real thing and can develop real immunity, that's so hard to do nowdays!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Neighbor

Here he is!

Doggie loves Baby

My happy kids
(look at how patient and good that dog is with him!)



I dont' know why sound isn't working...I'm trying to figure that out. In the meantime, enjoy the visuals. :-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

Photos of Home

Here are some pictures taken from the ferry on the way out to Pelican




Here is the Lisianski Inlet (our fjord) on the way into town


Here is town


Here is my neighbor, taken from my porch.


(He is a great blue heron. When I took this picture I thought it was a rare sighting...but now I have seen him up there several times, so I believe it is his nest.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Vaccines—Polio/IPV

The IPV is recommended at 2m, 4m, 6-18m, and 4-6y. Doses must be given at least 4 weeks apart, and while 4 doses are on the recommended schedule, 3 doses is considered sufficient vaccination so long as the final dose is given after age 4. The IPV is not recommended over the age of 18years unless the person will be traveling to certain regions with high rates of polio. The MTC does not have this on their list of recommended vaccines (although it might be recommended for specific missionaries if they are going to those areas).

Polio gets a bad name because of cases like FDR, who developed lifelong paralysis. Many people know someone who was paralyzed by polio…what they do not realize is that millions of other people had polio and were NOT paralyzed. In fact, only around 5% of cases of polio resulted in any kind of paralysis, and fewer than 2% of those had lifelong paralysis. In other words, only something like 1 of 2000 infected people had residual paralysis, and not even all of those were para- or quadriplegics. The truth is that polio just isn’t as dangerous as we have been told. Now this is not to say that it’s no big deal—the risks were and are real, but they are just not terribly common.

That said, there have been NO cases of wild polio reported in the western hemisphere since 1991. In other words, the only cases of polio in the USA in the last 16 years have been those caused by the vaccine. Polio IS still found in SouthEast Asia (58%), Africa (21%) and the eastern Mediterranian (21%). However, researchers believe that polio will be fully eradicated from the planet by 2010. Polio is a ‘posterchild’ for vaccination, just as smallpox was. (Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, and the vaccine has not been administered since that time, although small samples of the virus do still exist in laboratories.)

For decades the oral (live) polio vaccine was given. As with any live vaccine, it was quite effective, but also very dangerous (it caused paralytic polio in about 10 people each year). Now the USA uses only the injected Inactivated Polio virus (IPV), but since this is a relatively new vaccine here, we don’t really know how effective it is. Doctors believe that 3 doses provides about 99% immunity, but we don’t know if that is accurate, nor how long it lasts. France has been using the IPV for years, and gives boosters after the initial series. However, the CDC believes that polio will be completely eradicated by 2010, and at that time polio vaccinations will be unneeded, so they have not pursued the matter.

SO, it’s entirely possible that this vaccine will be outdated by the time my next child is born…but, in the meantime, it is here, so I will write up the remainder of my research about it.

IPV contains formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol (ethanol—toxic, depressant, tranquilizer), and neomycin, streptomycin, and polymyxin B (antibiotics—Included to prevent germs in the vaccine cultures!)

The vaccine serum is grown in cells taken from monkey kidneys. There are documented cases of monkey viruses spreading to humans via polio vaccinations, and there is current suspicion that SV40 (another monkey virus) may be being transmitted, and may be causing certain cancers in humans. Some experts even believe that early HIV/AIDS transmission to humans came via contaminated polio vaccine serums. Of course this cannot be proven, but the spread of AIDS among humans occurred at around the same time and in the same areas as the increasing usage of the polio vaccine, so the theory is not unfounded.

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My Conclusions
Polio can be a dangerous thing, with lifelong side effects. The oral polio vaccine was scary, but the IPV seems relatively safe…on the other hand, if we are truly within a few years of fully eradicating this disease (and it has been gone from our area for over a decade) then what is the genuine risk to my children? If eradication is not successful, or if we travel to infected areas, then the vaccine makes sense…but if it really is on the way out, then what is the point of exposing oneself to the risks of a vaccine when there is no risk of exposure to the disease?

Vaccines—MMR

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is one of the old standards. It is given sub-cutaneously (meaning just under the skin, but not into the muscle). As this is a live virus vaccine, reactions are quite common, and it is possible for the vaccine to actually cause the disease against which it is supposed to protect. While the combined form is standard, it is worth considering getting the three vaccines in separate shots—at least for the first dose of each—so that if a reaction occurs, you can tell what the reaction is to.
With many vaccines, the adverse reactions are difficult to define. Meaning that while one person may be certain that the symptoms are effects of the vaccine, it is difficult to prove that the two are linked, and (in these days of multi-vaxing) it is even more difficult to determine which vaccine caused the reaction. HOWEVER, studies have PROVEN that the MMR vaccine—the rubella portion in particular—can cause arthritis or arthritic symptoms which may be temporary or permanent. This happens in about 25% of cases, and it causes by chemical confusion (the molecular structure of some components of the vaccine are extremely similar to some components of natural joint fluids, and the immune system becomes confused and while it is attacking the toxins from the vaccine, it also attacks the joints…) There are innumerable reactions attributed too vaccinations, but this is one that is proven. I repeat, this reaction is NOT speculative, it is proven. Furthermore, it is common.

MMR is a famous ‘bad guy’ vaccine, because it is commonly said to cause autism. (The other infamous link is DTP and SIDS.) I have two things to say about that 1—causality cannot be proven, but neither can innocence. 2—you won’t find something if you refuse to look for it. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Personally, I am fascinated by Stephanie Cave’s chart showing the parallels between the symptoms of autism and the symptoms of mercury poisoning. I strongly suspect they are the same thing, and that thimerosal-free vaccines will help enormously in reducing the rates of autism. Additionally, primary brain development slows down by age 2, so waiting until that time to give this vaccine may help reduce the risk of adverse reactions, including autism.

Schools require 2 doses of the MMR, and the MTC recommends the same. Doses should be administered at least 4 weeks apart. The recommended schedule is 12-15m, 4-6y, and then a rubella booster (although the full MMR is usually given) especially for girls around 12y or the onset of puberty. Note that doses given to a child under 12months don’t count for anything.

The MMR vaccine contains gelatin (allergen), sorbitol (allergen), neomycin (an antibiotic), and in the measles and mumps portion, it contains egg (allergen). The original serum for the rubella vaccine was made in 1964 with aborted fetal tissue (the mother got Rubella). While I appreciate that that is an effective way to acquire the virus, there are moral considerations about the fact that it was aborted human fetal tissue that was used.

So, what are these diseases? Well, they are not really as scary as we are led to believe.

Measles is no fun. On the other hand, it’s not usually that big a deal either. The patient gets spots and feels yukky for a while, but that’s about it. Once it’s over, they have natural lifelong immunity. Primary treatments include doses of vitamin A (suggesting that this would also be helpful with the live vaccine). It used to be most common in children 4-5years old, but since the introduction of the vaccination it is most common between ages 10-14y, and is seen as young as 6m and as old as 20y. About 1 in 1000 cases is fatal. Most cases of measles in the USA are in people who were vaccinated. Recent outbreaks have been in vaccinated populations, and weird strains of measles are appearing, suggesting that the virus is mutating and the vaccine is clearly losing efficacy. In decades past, women had childhood measles, and then their natural antibodies protected their (breastfed) infants during the first 12-15months of life. However, now that most mothers have been vaccinated, they do not have those natural antibodies, and so cannot protect their children. The result is that infants are catching measles during their first year of life, when they are too young for the vaccination, and too small to cope with the actual disease. In other words, mass vaccination of one generation has now put the next generation at increased risk.

Mumps is an all around mild disease, and natural immunity results. For years people have feared it because of the rumors that it can cause sterility. While it is true that about 25% of cases do include infection in the reproductive organs, it is rare for that infection to cause sterility. Even if sterility of the organ does result, it is VERY rare for the infection to attack both testes or both ovaries, so while fertility might be reduced by half, it is almost never lost entirely. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine is questionable. Some doctors theorize that it is 75-95% effective, and lasts for around 30 years, but not everyone agrees. The one thing that is certain is that there has been a 600% reduction in mumps infection rates since introduction of the vaccination.

Rubella is also called ‘German Measles’ because it causes spots like measles does, however it should not be confused with regular measles. Rubella does carry some danger, but only to unborn babies. In fact, the vaccine is recommended for children to protect the pregnant women around them rather than to protect the children themselves, for whom the disease would be no big deal. The danger to a fetus is so extreme that a pregnant (or potentially pregnant) woman should NEVER get a rubella vaccination, and no one living in a household with her should get the vaccination. A woman receiving the rubella vaccination should be careful to not become pregnant for at least 3 months (the advice used to be 6 months, and before that they said 12months…actually no one knows how long the live virus remains in the body, but 3 months seems to be the shortest anyone is willing to go). The danger is this: if a woman contracts rubella in the first half of a pregnancy it can cause deafness, bone defects, heart defects, glaucoma, mental retardation, cataracts, poor growth or death to the baby. Miscarriages and stillbirths are common results of rubella.

I have personal experience with a reaction to the rubella vaccine. I was fully vaccinated for rubella as a child, but at age 25, my titers showed that I did not have the antibodies. Whether they had worn down, or whether I had never developed them, we don’t know. Since I was pregnant, the doctor recommended getting the vaccine immediately after delivery. I chose to do so.
Within a couple of days I developed SEVERE itching all over my body. I am one who can usually resist scratching, but this was so severe that I developed rashes on my arms, legs, belly, and breasts, and even broke the skin in a few places due to scratching. I called the doctor’s office to ask what they recommended I do, and the nurse told me that they usually recommended a benadryll cream. Usually? Meaning that is kind of reaction was common?! Yup. So I got a benadryll cream, and applied it…I used almost the entire tube in 4 days, and that was trying to use the minimum possible because the label warned against using it on large areas! So, the itching subsided after about a week, although the rashes took at least another week to clear up. Then came the joint pain. My wrists began to be sore. At first I thought it was from holding my baby—that I was inadvertently putting my wrists at bad angles and thereby hurting myself. So I paid careful attention to not bend my wrists, but to keep them straight while holding my baby. The pain continued. I wondered about carpal tunnel, but the symptoms didn’t quite match. The soreness came and went a little, but I always noticed it at night, especially when I lifted my baby to feed him. He was a small baby, but just picking him up caused such excruciating pain in my wrists and hands that I had to grit my teeth to do it. This lasted for several months.
Finally, all the symptoms faded away. I now sincerely regret having chosen to get that vaccination though. I had never had a reaction to any vaccine before then, and certainly did not expect to have one this time. But I’m now a little wiser for the wear I suppose, and I cannot think of any circumstance where I would recommend that a mother get this as I did.


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My Conclusions:
Well, following my rubella experience, I don’t care what future titers may say about my immunity or lack thereof—I will not get that vaccination ever again. Mumps seems hardly worth protecting against, and measles, well, who is to say that the vaccine will hold up to the new mutations of the virus?! This vaccine has been around a long time, and until my recent experience and research I would never have thought to question it…but I must say, it’s definitely worth questioning.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Vaccines—DTaP

The DTaP vaccine is recommended for missionaries entering the MTC. “Full vaccination” for school consists of 4 or 5 doses, administered into the muscle, a minimum of 4 weeks apart for the initial series (3 doses), with subsequent boosters at least 2 years apart. (The CDC states that giving boosters too often will increase negative reactions, and frankly the potential reactions for this vaccine are scary enough already!) Most vaccination schedules recommend giving this vaccine at 2m, 4m, 6m, 15-18m, and giving a booster at 4-6y. However, so long as the final dose (the booster) is given after age 4, only 4 doses are needed. Efficacy for the combined vaccination is 80-85%.
The DTaP is NOT approved for use in children over 7y. However, both the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines require boosters to maintain efficacy, so the Td or Tdap are approved for children over age 10. Boosters should be given every 10 years throughout life. Be aware that there is no approved vaccine for diphtheria or tetanus for children between the ages of 7-10 years, and that there is NO pertussis vaccine approved for children over age 7. (A pertussis vaccine for older children was recently approved in Canada though, and may be in the USA soon.)

The DTP has been generally agreed to be one of the more dangerous routine vaccines on the market. More than half of reported vaccine reactions have been to the DTP, with fever and prolonged inconsolable crying topping the list. Many people also attribute *SIDS to this vaccine. The new version—the DTaP (with acellular pertussis, rather than the whole-cell pertussis of the original)—has fewer side effects, but inevitably still carries risks. The vaccine contains aluminum (toxic), formaldehyde (eww!) and thimerosal (mercury—toxic). To my knowledge, there is NOT a thimerosal-feee version of this vaccination like there are of all the others. However, unlike some other vaccinated diseases (such as chicken pox), these diseases have risks of their own, and can be extremely severe.

The highest risk group for diphtheria is children between the ages of 2-5years. Diphtheria is transmitted via touch or respiratory droplets, so is highly contagious. It is considered treatable, but the current treatments cannot mend the damage caused by the disease—they can only stop additional progression. Diphtheria can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages because it often looks like a simple cold; in the later stages however, heart damage is common, and often a tracheotomy is needed to allow breathing. [Does this scare anyone else? You can’t catch it early, can’t fix the problems it causes, and may end up with a busted heart or a hole in your neck just to survive the thing.] There is a 5-10% death rate in diagnosed cases. There is no telling what the actual infection rate is. Getting diphtheria will NOT provide immunity against getting it again. The vaccine is considered about 95% effective.

Tetanus bacteria cannot live in oxygen (they are anaerobic), so they thrive in deep wounds. One fairly effective way to protect yourself against tetanus is to be sure to thoroughly wash any deep wound—flowing blood will oxygenate the area, and substantially reduce the risk of developing tetanus. This is not always possible however, because potentially infectious wounds include burns, dental infections, crushing wounds, puncture wounds, and ear infections. If acquired, the tetanus bacteria produces a poison which blocks the nerve signals that relax the muscles. The result is strong and painful muscle spasms which can even break bones. In the United States, 30% of tetanus victims die, usually from suffocation when their chest muscles become rigid. Getting tetanus will NOT provide immunity against getting it again. The vaccine, although it requires boosters every decade, is considered over 95% effective.

Pertussis, also called Whooping Cough, is not a pretty disease either. Its name results from the fact that heavy mucous in the airways inhibits breathing, often causing the victim to ‘whoop’ as they cough. The disease usually lasts 2-4 months. Children under the age of 1 year have the greatest risk, with 75% of cases occurring in children under 10. A case of Pertussis often will include nosebleeds, bruised ribs, pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infection, and hemorrhaging in the eyes. The virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets, so even brief exposure to an infected person can lead to infection. Natural infection will provide the patient with immunity.
The CDC says that the pertussis vaccine is 70-90% effective (meaning that is the percent of people who develop antibodies and immunity), and it has reduced infection rates by 98%.

It seems to have been the whole-cell pertussis portion of the DTP vaccine that caused most of the negative side effects. These effects included convulsions, shock, high fever, swelling of the brain, brain damage, cardiac distress, and respiratory distress. In 1996, the switch was made to using the DTaP, which has acellular pertussis, and the number of negative reactions has dropped drastically. The pertussis toxin remains the most dangerous portion of this vaccine, but vitamin A improves the body’s response to it.

An interesting study showed that infants die at 8x the normal rate within the first 3 days after receiving this vaccination. *SIDS is more common within the first 3 weeks after any DTP (the original or a booster). Both apnea (stopped breathing) and hypopnea (shallow breathing) are documented reactions to the DTaP vaccine, and some doctors feel that is the reason for the increased death rate.

*SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the label they use when they don’t really know why the child died. There are theories ranging from uneven growth of vital organs (with one causing another to stop functioning) to toxins in old mattresses to sleep apnea/stopped breathing. Personally, I think that the apnea/hypopnea theory makes a lot of sense.


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My Conclusions
These are three REALLY ugly diseases. The vaccine carries risks, but so do the diseases—and in my opinion, the diseases are worse than a wisely administered vaccination (meaning dosing up on vitamin C, vitamin A, etc). Diphtheria and Tetanus do not even bestow natural immunity, so there is no benefit whatsoever to acquiring the disease. These all have fairly high rates of severe side effects or death.
This is a vaccine I do believe in. As always, it should not be combined with other vaccines, and should be preceded and followed by immuno-boosting vitamins and herbs.

Fire Insurance

I solemnly wear that this is 100% true. I am not making any of it up. I typed this up minutes after completing the phone call because I didn't want to forget it.


We rent a little apartment over the fire hall. In other words, when I go downstairs to do laundry, I walk past a covered pickup truck with a medical sign on it (the town ambulance), and a tiny fire truck.
After we moved in, I called our insurance company to sign up for renters insurance. We owned a home in Utah before we came up here. When we moved, we rented out that house, so we switched from homeowners insurance to something called a ‘fire policy’ (meaning that it protected the actual house, but not the contents, since the contents were not ours). In order for them to provide that policy, however, the company insisted that they also provide our renters insurance. So, as soon as we got settled in, I called them to set it up.
I gave the agent all the information, and he said he would run the numbers and call me back in thirty minutes.
An hour later, he called. “We can’t cover you,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we can cover classes 1 through 9, but you are a class 10…” [here began a long explanation which may or may not have been in English]. “So, we’re not going to be able to provide renters insurance for you. Our underwriters just won’t do it. Do you think maybe you can find a company in your town that could give you coverage?”
“This town has a population of under 200 people. I’m pretty certain there’s no insurance agent here.”
“Is there a larger city nearby where you could go?”
“Well, Juneau is about 90 miles away…by seaplane. I really don’t have access to any larger cities.”
“It sounds like you’re pretty remote then…that’s what the problem is with the underwriting; they’re concerned that in the event of a fire, you’re too far from the nearest fire department.”
“Fire?!”
“Yes, there’s no fire department near you, so that makes you a higher risk.”
“Our apartment is over the firehouse.”
“What?”
“Our apartment—it’s built over the firehouse.”
“Oh, like a volunteer fire department?”
“I’m sure it is, but in a town this tiny, it’s not like it takes long to get anywhere…and, as I said, we LIVE at the firehouse...if the bell rings, they all come straight here. Furthermore, we live in a rainforest, and there is ocean on three sides of the building. I don’t think fire is much of a risk to begin with, and if somehow one managed to break out, I don’t think it would get very far.”
“Hmm, that is very interesting. You know, let me give that additional information to our underwriters. We may be able to work this out.”

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Some Things You Never Knew You Never Knew

Thoughts extracted from the thoroughly enjoyable book “The Book of General Ignorance: Everything you think you know is wrong” by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.

Goldfish actually have a memory of three months (not three seconds or three minutes). And they lay eggs, rather than get pregnant, so a pregnant goldfish can’t be called a ‘twit’ because (ahem) they don’t get pregnant.

The tallest mountain in the world (from base to tip) is Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, at 33,465 ft (although only 13,799 are above sea level). Everest is the highest mountain (with its tip at 29,029 ft above sea level), but it cheats by already being on the Tibetan Plateau.

Antarctica is the driest place on Earth (places there have not seen rain in over 400 years). It is also the wettest (with 70% of the world’s fresh water), and the windiest (with recorded windspeeds of over 200mph).

The European Earwig has two penises. This was discovered when a couple of gentlemen in Tokyo were watching a pair of mating earwigs, and playfully pinched the male back end. The bug’s penis snapped off, but he calmly brought out a backup. Apparently this is not an uncommon occurance.

In other weird penis facts, barnacles’ penises are seven times their own body length.

Tigers cannot abide the smell of alcohol, and will attack anyone who has been drinking.

The surface of Mars is roughly the color of butterscotch. The red is dust.

Eskimos only have four words for snow; maybe only two. (There are several related languages spoken by the Inuit peoples, thus the confusion…most Eskimo groups only give two words, but consideration of various root words leads to the possibility of as many as four.)

The Canary Islands are not named after the bird; rather, the bird is named after the islands. The islands were named Insula Canaria after the many dogs found there (both wild and domesticated). Canaria, you know, like canine…not canary. People sure are weird. Kinda like Nome, AK got named when some explorer saw a villiage, and put a dot on his map with the notation “Name?” and somebody couldn’t read it and concluded that it was a town called Nome. Or like Sequim, WA (pronounced “Squim”) where the mapmaker was feeling fancy and added a flourish to his ‘S,’ and the printer thought it was an ‘e’ and so now the town name is spelled stupidly. Really, people, get a brain here.

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