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Hitting a nerve on the issue of immunizations
I struck a nerve. Immunizations are your nerve. I wrote with that raw nerve inflamed. - photo by Joseph Cramer, MD
I struck a nerve. Immunizations are your nerve. I wrote with that raw nerve inflamed.

We have all hit our elbow wrong. The knock against our nerve provokes a shooting pain down our arm. There is a condition that by its name alone you know you have hit a nerve tic douloureux.

This is an extremely painful problem with the sensory nerves of the face. There is an excruciating, some say even tortuous, flash that engulfs one side of the face. The nerve is not hit, but it might as well be.

When I recently wrote about immunizations ("Bringing home measles instead of Mickey Mouse ears"), I struck some of your nerves. What I wrote was out of true regard for children. It was also visceral, derived from my scary experiences. I cared for a child with measles. I know what it is like for a child to suffer with this unnecessary infection. It was horrible. She was one of the sickest children I have ever seen who lived. Her pain struck my nerve.

I once did a spinal tap on a child already blinded by pneumococcal meningitis. He had a second case of meningitis, now from a different germ, H influenza. Today, that boy would be able to have his vision protected by vaccines from both invaders.

I have watched a mother struggle to care for a child who was mentally disabled due to vaccine-preventable meningitis. When one sees the spinal fluid surrounding the brain drip out of the needle as pus, it is never forgotten.

When we feel threatened when a nerve is struck a common reaction is anger. It is natural. The hormones of rage empower our muscles to punch harder and faster.

The question I pose to all who were offended is why that nerve? There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of nerves in our body, both literal and figurative. Why immunizations?

There are so many causes in the world to fight. Anyone could go to bed exhausted every day from the struggles: child soldiers, girls denied schooling, homelessness. There are children exploited as slaves for physical labor or sexual pleasure. Why immunizations?

The study on immunizations and autism by UK doctor Andrew Wakefield was retracted, and he has lost his medical license. Where are the pickets and the celebrities demanding accountability? What he did and the others who have followed should strike a nerve in all of us, but it doesnt even produce a tingle.

In the hospital, I hand out a survey to some parents about the social stresses at home that lead to poor health both physical and emotional. In a matter of a few questionnaires, three mothers marked that they did not have enough food. One mom said that she made sure her two children had enough, but that she would go without. Too many Americans are hungry not because they are on a diet. There is no food for them to eat.

Make hunger in America the cause celebre. Move beyond the anger of immunizations and on to something that is real in our state and across the nation.

The intensity of the anger and the tenor of the comments removed from the subject are interesting. Feeling passionate about something is exciting and makes life interesting. But why not something that is beneficial? Immunizations save lives and billions of dollars.

I am not a political cartoonist. I am not a medical terrorist. Obviously, I am not a diplomat. I am a pediatrician trying to do my best to care for incredible children and amazing parents.

In the end, we want the same thing, your child alive, safe and healthy.
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