Measles: Rachel's story

Author: NHS Choices

I think measles is so rare it's not something we think about. As parents we perhaps lump it in with chicken pox and childhood ailments. People used to go to parties to deliberately contract these illnesses. Things are very different when it's actually your child going through that. I'd chosen not to vaccinate Lola-May or perhaps not put as much thought into it as I should've done. And Lola-May went to a birthday party, and several days later it came out that the child who was having that party had measles, and of course the absolute fear came then, knowing I hadn't vaccinated Lola and knowing most of those children were vaccinated and they would be safe. But just the waiting game then for Lola to get poorly, which she inevitably did. She started with mild symptoms of a cold, then her symptoms got worse.

She didn't want to be touched. She didn't want to be in light. She had a terrible ear infection. And I kept going back to the doctors and presenting her, and they said it was probably a virus.

By the fifth day Lola was extremely poorly. She had a barking croup-like cough. She was finding it difficult to breathe. She was in agony with her ears and her temperature was really frightening me. Uncontrollable. The onset of the rash doesn't come until later on.

The symptoms are similar to very serious flu with an uncontrollable temperature. It wasn't until around the fifth day that the rash came behind her ears. And luckily I met a GP at an out-of-hours surgery who had witnessed measles and was able to diagnose Lola. She was very quickly then rushed to hospital. And the rash spread rapidly over her body in the next 24 hours.

Measles: Rachel's story

When you're looking at a child who's sick and knowing that it's something you've created, that the decision you made inevitably has caused this to happen to your child, the guilt that you feel is awful. That and the fact that the doctor's saying that Lola, if and when she recovers, is going to need to be fully vaccinated anyway, made me just feel terrible. The fact that she was still going to have to be vaccinated, in fact the whole family would have to be vaccinated, this decision that I had avoided was going to happen anyway to all of us, just made it so silly that I hadn't chosen or thought about vaccinations earlier for Lola-May. Her breathing difficulties were getting worse as her time in hospital went on. The doctors talked about pneumonia, about partial deafness or full hearing loss. Her eardrum was quite obviously perforated by then. She was on IV antibiotics.

She was having nebulisers and steroids to keep her airways open and her lungs working. Lola-May was left with permanently damaged hearing because of measles and a perforated eardrum, which hasn't healed to this day. She still, when she gets poorly now, has times when she's almost profoundly deaf, but luckily, between bouts of illness, that improves somewhat. Lola-May can't have hearing aids and can't be helped. She just has to struggle. It's affected her speech and language, which has affected her confidence. I think my decision not to vaccinate, with Lola, I kind of thought that if everyone else had done it, I perhaps didn't need to.

And that complacency cost us so much as a family.

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