Get Your Damn Kids Vaccinated… Please

Liberalism is one of those concepts that every first year university student studied. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I’m sure you have some understanding of the term. Simply put: Do whatever you want; just don’t muck about with others.

I bring this up in light of this whole measles mess, which I wasn’t going to comment on because I didn’t think it was a big deal in Canada, and I figured it was just common sense. However a recent outbreak in Lanaudiere, Quebec, right outside of my hometown of Montreal has me concerned.

To dignify the argument that measles causes autism with any kind of response is pointless, because anyone who needs to hear that response isn’t listening, so let’s move on, and I’ll keep this brief because I don’t usually post mid week.

Yes, parents have the right to forgo vaccination, but they do not have the right to bring their kids to daycare, especially one with a nursery. Babies under one, like my daughter, are not old enough to receive the vaccine, but they are still susceptible to the deadly disease. Bottom line: those parents have the choice to leave their kids unprotected. I don’t.

For more information about the outbreak in Quebec 

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The Crazy

I kicked a coat yesterday. I kicked it right in its stupid, uncooperative coat face.

For the past few days, I’ve been fiddling with a post about The Crazy, but I’ve been having trouble articulating exactly what it’s like. Our family, as far as sleep and eat and health and temper goes, has enjoyed a patch of relative smoothness. Thank goodness yesterday happened so that I can fully impart to you the feelings that lead up to a coat ass-kicking.

The Crazy feels a lot like bombings in war movies. There’s an explosion, and tinnitus-like ringing, and the camera tilts back and forth until you’re dizzy.

The real life example I was going to use for this had something to do with being awake at 4am after trying every conceivable thing to stop your child from crying and telling the dog that you will “end him” if he doesn’t stop barking. That example is a vague amalgamation of several nights. It is far more useful to imagine yesterday morning’s scene to fully grasp The Crazy.

Friday night, my neighbours had a party. They were whooping and running around playing, what I imagined to be a midnight game of thunderball, a popular game on Planet Leigh’s Pissed Off Imagination. Between their screaming, and Joanie’s cough, I slept three hours. Saturday morning, I was due to leave for Ottawa to visit my dad, but when the time came to start packing, it dawned on me that I hadn’t showered in three days, that I still had to do groceries, laundry, and the weeks preparatory cooking, otherwise this family would be eating pizza every night. As much as I want that, I’m a full grown adult now. I don’t say that to boast of my maturity, simply to say that my tum tum doesn’t like that yum yum. Point being, I let everything pile up, emotionally speaking. Joanie was having one of those days where she was only happy in my arms, so I was doing my chores one handed that day, and as a result doubling my work load with all my clumsy mistakes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but lots of little things weighed me down, or rather pushed me to the point of madness when I tried to zip up my coat. Joanie, who hates her baby sling, was screaming as loud and as close to my ear as she could. Frank was barking, as he’s expected to do in such a situation, and my zipper, which I cannot see below Joanie, got stuck just above my waste. I took a deep breath and tried to wiggle it free but it didn’t budge. I tried again, but this time with more force. It didn’t move. Joanie, still screaming, was getting hot, transferring her body heat to me, as we both sweat in my parka. Panic washed over me, and I tugged on the zipper as hard as I could. Nothing happened, so I took hold of each side of my coat and Hulk-shredded my way out of it, pushing it down over my waste, then in a fit of fury, stomped and kicked and raged against what it, my mother who’d purchased the coat, and the God-foresaken manufacturers who made it, did to me. Then I grabbed another jacket, threw a blanket around Joanie, and went out to walk in any direction until we both stopped crying. It was only minus 4 or 5 out and there were kids playing in the park. Birds were chirping. There wasn’t any wind. With renewed calm I strolled into the grocery store, and, like the totally normal person I am, did my shopping. Joanie was perched in the children’s seat of the cart and we smiled at all the other shoppers. I remembered everything on my list, bought myself an extra sweet treat, and returned home to make soup, have lunch, and clean the living room.

The Crazy is losing a plot. The Crazy is being unbound. The Crazy is not a cataclysmic destruction. We move through our day, being piled upon by little obstacles, by broken zippers, by barking dogs, by chores, chores, chores, and then something happens. The Crazy happens. We get hot. We sweat. A noise comes out of our chests and ekes through our teeth until they spread apart and release it in rage. The Crazy happens and then, before we know it, we’re outside. The air is fresh. We’re walking fast. We’re breathing deep breaths, the biggest breaths we’ve ever breathed.

That’s The Crazy, and I wish I could offer advice as to how to deal with it, but I don’t know any, and this isn’t really an advice blog anyway. Generally it passes rather quickly. Take solace in that, I guess.

At The Children’s Hospital (The only title that wasn’t too glib)

Preamble:

Joanie is fine. She had a complication from a virus that landed us in the hospital under observation for four days, but she has since recovered fully. So nobody freak out… for her… feel free to freak out for all the other parents and kids still there.

The Children’s Hospital in Montreal, like any children’s hospital is a terribly depressing place. No matter how many Despicable Me t-shirts the nurses wear or how many broken mobiles hand from the particle board ceilings, it’s still wreaks of sorrow. Tragedies are behind every curtain. Across the hall from our room a boy no older than thirteen recovered from a tracheotomy while escaping periodically to smoke. A mother was shipped off to the general hospital because she collapsed. She was, as I overheard, “non-responsive.” Walking down the hall of the seventh floor, I couldn’t help but peer through the windows at the rooms that looked a touch too lived in. Large sofas, cots made up with sheets from home, framed family photos on side tables; these comforts suggested a ramshackle make-shift permanence instead of the home all the kids were missing. Amidst all this weighty chilling sadness shine tales of unbelievable bravery.

On the other side of the curtain that separated our room, I heard the high pitch gasps of an infant struggling to inhale enough air into her too tiny lungs. It was constant but the rhythm was irregular. I listened, trying to intuit the kind of illness that would cause the squeals, until the second morning when Jim, her father, said from behind the curtain, “don’t worry, the team here is really great.” I couldn’t see his face but I could tell from the cheerful timbre of his voice that he wore a soft grin.

“They’re very nice,” I added. Without having much more to say I sat in silence.

Then his face, gaunt and stubbly appeared smiling from the other side of the curtain. He was clutching a mug with a picture of a baby boy printed on it. “We were here with my older son last year. He has a lesion in his brain. One in two thousand babies have it and he needs neurosurgery. We’ve been here for a month with my daughter. They transferred us from Ste. Justine a couple of days after she was born. She was diagnosed with down syndrome,” he said with a boggling degree of detailed nonchalance. “Everyone here is really great,” he repeated.

“I’m sorry,” I said, stupidly. Again, I was at a loss for words, and blurted something, anything out, when I probably should have said nothing.

“Don’t be sorry,” he corrected, “this was determined when she was only eight cells. She couldn’t be any other way. She wouldn’t be her if she wasn’t this way.” He had rehearsed this speech, but it was still so heart-warming. Maybe it was that it was rehearsed that made it so poignant.

For the following two days I listened to Jim and his wife Ella work together as a practiced team. They scheduled appointments, shared research, alternated the questioning of doctors and found time to chat excitedly about the hockey game. Despite having a daughter in the hospital, recovering from a cesarean, and planning another surgery for their son, Jim and Ella remained positive and proactive.

Could I do that? I wondered. Yes, I think eventually I could, but I imagine it would be tough. Much tougher than saying I could do it. Jim and Ella were professional parents in control of everything. I marvelled at the almost super-human qualities they displayed in the face of life’s most difficult trials.

Over the four days and three nights Joanie, Eric and I were in the hospital, I barely left the building, and when I did I felt distant from all the people around me. They were bustling to and from work, school, the gym, library, shops, doing their every day duties while I had slid off into this otherworldly space that is the hospital. It was as if I was very far away from the humanity of everyday, while simultaneously so close to the extremes of it: a mother desperately searching the halls for her missing son, a father collapsing at the sight of his daughter’s blood, families decorating hospital rooms, trying to make a dire situation and a sterile place seem like home.

Everyone there is really great.