Mum speaks out about measles death
IT was 15 years ago this week that Cecily Johnson lost her daughter Laine to a terrible, degenerative disease she suffered because of a measles infection.
Laine died of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE , a disease that left her blind within two weeks of diagnosis at seven years old, mute not long after and bedridden by her death, aged 12.
Ms Johnson has understandably become a passionate advocate of vaccination because of the ordeal. The Pottsville woman said she usually tried not to mark the anniversary of her child's death, but rather remembers her birthdays as a more positive anniversary.
But it was hard not to remember it this week after a measles outbreak in Tweed Heads that has infected at least eight people.
Laine became infected with measles at 10-and-a-half months old, too early for her 12-month measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
SSPE usually hits seven to 10 years after a young child has had measles. About one in 100,000 people who catch measles get the disease.
Ms Johnson was, and still is, a registered nurse who regularly administers vaccinations, which made Laine's infection with measles and subsequent death more tragic.
“I am big time for it (vaccination),” Ms Johnson said. “SSPE is a terrible disease, every time I hear of an outbreak of measles I freak out.”
Not only is there a risk of suffering SSPE, but contracting measles itself can be devastating for anyone with a compromised immune system.
Unvaccinated babies are among the hardest hit by measles.
Ms Johnson goes to anti-immunisation meetings to ask questions, then shows the audience pictures of her daughter, even ones of her body in a coffin on the day of her funeral.
“I went to one two days after my daughter's funeral,” she recalled.
A chiropractor told the audience no child had died as a result of measles. “I pulled out photos of her in the coffin and told them it was my own daughter.
“They say there could be a reaction to vaccination ... but look at it, look at the odds, a lot more kids died of measles itself, or later of SSPE than suffer a side effect from a vaccination.
“All of you who don't want to vaccinate ... I get so upset, because you are putting all the little bubs at risk,” she said.