It is now 11 years since I have held my baby girl in my arms. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her smiling, sunshine kissed face and beautiful sparkling blue eyes. I used to call her my Abigale Angel and now she is. Eleven years ago on Feb. 18 began a normal Sunday but turned into a day I would love to forget – my beautiful little girl became deathly ill with a bacterial infection—called pneumococcal disease (streptococcus pneumonia)—that would consume her and cause her death the following morning in my arms on the drive to the emergency room. In 10 short hours her devastating sickness could have possibly been avoided had she had two very important childhood vaccines that are now more readily available and strongly encouraged by our Health Department.
To avoid potential sickness, and possibly death, of your own children, I highly encourage you to take your consideration very seriously regarding vaccines. The loss my husband, children, and I have had to face due to her not being fully vaccinated is something we have to live with for the rest of our lives. No parent wants to feel this loss; no parent wants to explain to their child that they just lost a sibling or tell new children that their sibling went to heaven before they were born because of a vaccine-preventable disease. I have more guilt than you can imagine by knowing if I had just gone with my instincts and insisted on the vaccines rather than be deterred by a pediatrician who didn’t feel that they were necessary.
That Sunday started out as a normal day taking the children to church and Sunday school. Then, back home again playing outside and unwinding to some games and books when Abby started to complain of a headache. The illness came on very quickly and then progressed even quicker to vomiting, diarrhea and fever with chills. I thought the vomiting peculiar as Abby had had a vomiting flu less than two weeks prior, but resigned it to the fact that she was in kindergarten and the kids shared everything including germs. I cleaned Abby up, attempted to give her Tylenol and proceeded to call the hospital emergency room to discuss her symptoms with a nurse but was told there was a vomiting flu going around with fever and to keep her comfortable by treating the fever with tepid baths. The night was horrible with many trips to the bathroom and consoling Abby as she sat shivering in the tub working through her fever. My husband, DuWayne, was up with her early in the morning when he yelled, “Shannon we need to bring her in to the emergency room.” He didn't like her lethargy or purple blotches that were appearing on her legs. He knew something just wasn’t right.
We hurriedly drove to the our hospital 21 miles away in freezing rain with me sitting in the back with the two kids and calling the hospital on the way saying we were coming. I prayed for the best but felt as I held her in my arms while she was buckled in her carseat that she was leaving me. Her last words to me were “mommy I hurt all over.” I told her I knew but it was the sickness and we were getting her to the doctor as fast as we could to help her. Those would be the last words I would hear and speak with my little girl. This all happening while her little brother sat next to us watching his sister suffering.
While my daughter’s death happened quite quickly and I wasn’t able to save her by rushing to the hospital, I was able to save my son of the same ramifications by hospitalizing him directly after her death. My world changed in those life altering three days; I now understand the importance of vaccines and how children’s lives depend on them. I am asking all parents to make sure their kids are kept healthy and to vaccinate them. If we do this, we will save lives.
For my children, both my Abigale and my living 16 and 8 year old boys and 2 year old daughter, I have made it my life’s journey to talk with parents concerning the importance of vaccinations. Please give this your most serious thoughts. Your child’s life may be in jeopardy without them.