Terry Karney (pecunium) wrote,

On deaths, and not dying

One of these things is not like the others:

Polio
Mumps
Rubella
Smallpox
Human Papilloma Virus
Measles
Whooping Cough
Diptheria
Chicken Pox
Scarlet Fever

The one which is unlike the others: Smallpox. Smallpox, alone among diseases is, so far as we can tell, extinct. No one in the world has caught smallpox in 30 years. It's gone.

Why? Because we killed it. The gov'ts of the world united and vaccinated everyone against it. I have a scar. I was in the tail end of the United States campaign. My sister is 14 months my junior, she has no scar. My younger siblings don't have the scar. No one I have ever met has had it.

The first disease to be wiped out is the one from which we get the word vaccine

It's part of why we vaccinate

Vaccinations save lives. We say, "children bury their parents, parent's shouldn't bury their children." Well burying children used to be part and parcel of having them.

Ben Jonson wrote a poem about the death of his son Benjamin. I've seen the tombstones.

Children died so regularly that in some places they didn't get real names until they'd attained some age at which it was assumed they were likely to live. That might be as high as eight.

There's been a big brouhaha about vaccines in the past ten years or so. Claims that it leads to autism. It doesn't. The data were faked and the author had conflicts of interest.

And, even if it did increase the risk of autism, so what? The world isn't safe. Maybe the vaccination schedule raises the odds of autism. I don't know. What I do know is polio... kills; when it doesn't maim.

Measles kills, when it doesn't blind, or deafen.

Scarlett Fever doesn't kill, unless it leads to Rheumatic Fever, which weakens the heart and leads to early demise, when it doesn't kill.

Chicken pox can disfigure, blind and (yes, you got it) kill.

Whooping cough, can kill.

The list of preventable diseases is longer than the one I provided. Many of them are fatal. They are, in the developed world, rare. Why?

Because we vaccinate. Right now England is having a rash of measles cases? Why? Because people were afraid of autism. Autism is bad. Burying your kids (even if they make it past eight) is worse.

My grandmother buried her second child. He got TB, and he died. He was three. She lived almost seventy more years, and it Johnny's death never left her. Not getting kids vaccinated will inflict that on more people, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. We don't have to go back to that.

One other of those is not like the others: HPV. HPV is sexually transmitted. This wigs a lot of people out. They think (as with making condoms available to teens) that vaccinating against HPV will tell girls they can have sex anytime they want and they won't be suceptible to strains of genital warts, which reduces the odds of cervical cancer.

HPV is usually silent. Most males don't know they have it, and condoms can't protect against it. Once a woman is exposed, the vaccine is useless.

Twenty years ago I went to a Tuesday evening class (logic and argment). I picked up a copy of the campus paper. The Roundup was a weekly, and I was no longer on the staff. From Managing Editor to just another consumer of the news. Which was as it should be, because working on the paper was a full-time job, and I was actually trying to get a degree.

It came out on Weds, but Tues. afternoon was when it came back from the printer, and it was put in the stands, so the early classes on Weds. would have it ready to hand.

On the front page was a photo of one of the former staffers. She was sitting with a lamb. Something about the photo bothered me. I couldn't quite place it, but something seemed out of place.

I started to read it, and the tense seemed wrong. That's when it hit me. The photo was bordered in a style I'd designed the year before. It had become the obituary edging.

Stacey was dead. The woman who had gone to Canada for the summer two years before and come back engaged. The woman who made the random quotations list because she was overheard saying, "I love you Terry. My thighs hate you, but I love you," after I'd brought some sweets to her and Joy in the newsroom.

Stacy, the lovable, sweet-natured, peacemaking, wonderful woman. A decent writer, a pretty good photograper. A friend (I admit it, I'd had a crush on her, and been to chicken to act on it. It didn't help that there were problems of position, she was a staff photographer, and I was an editor; not quite a sexual harrassment issue, but it colored my thinking, but I digress). A daughter, and a wife.

She was 27 years old, and she was dead. I don't remember much of the evening. I recall telling my instructor something like, "I won't be in class tonight. I just found out a friend of mine died," and dropping the paper on his desk as I walked out.

I think I called my girlfriend Stacey (it was a strange time, I was dating a Stacey, had a class with a different Stacy, and this Stacy died), and got drunk. The next day I went to the city room and sat with friends and we mourned some. There never was a wake. Her husband, and family, were too devastated to have one, and the rest of us weren't really old enough to have a handle on hosting one. Drinks at The Scotland Yard and stories and not quite crying in the pitchers was how we did it.

She had cervical cancer.

Add that to the list of things we don't have to put up with. We have the means to stop it. All we need is the will.
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