Gabriel’s Story – Erin Barker

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Gabriel was born in the summer of 2006. I had a perfect pregnancy, and after an uneventful 12-hour labor, Gabriel was born on his due date,beautiful and healthy. He nursed soon after birth, and we all went home two days later.

I noticed in those first few days that when Gabriel looked at me he seemed so aware for a newborn. He would look me straight in the eyes, almost speaking to me with them. I had high hopes for my new little guy, my second child but first son. He continued to do everything early, from rolling over to walking to potty training before he was a year old. His doctor was even impressed at how he exceeded his milestones, as Gabriel was doing things his own daughter who was several months older wasn’t doing yet. We started teaching him baby sign language, but stopped around 12 months because his verbal skills were excelling so quickly.

Our whole world changed the day we took him in for his 12 month well baby check-up. We didn’t know then that we were about to make the biggest mistake of our lives. After receiving his MMR vaccine in the muscle of his leg (I later learned that MMR is to be given subcutaneously, not intramuscularly), the injection site became inflamed and red, and tender to the touch for several weeks. Gabriel was irritable like never before. He seemed agitated and cranky much of the time, wanting to be held constantly.

It was about two weeks before the fever came, accompanied by high-pitched and unrelenting screaming. I remember calling the doctor’s office concerned because I could not control the fever, and I could tell he was screaming in pain. I was told to alternate Tylenol and Ibuprofen every 4 hours, and that he would be fine. We did as we were told, put cool rags on his head and body, my husband even put himself in an ice bath and then held the baby next to his cold skin. Still the fever would not go below 102 and continued to spike above 104. I called the doctor’s office every day for four days.

It was only by chance that I skimmed the vaccine reaction information we were handed on our way out the door at Gabriel’s appointment. I read the page on MMR. Serious reactions to this vaccine occur 1-3 weeks after it is administered, and include high fever, high-pitched screaming, BRAIN DAMAGE?!?

I got online and looked up “serious reaction to MMR.” What came up was account after account of what was happening to Gabriel. Many of them ended up regressing into autism. I remember thinking to myself, “That couldn’t possibly happen to Gabriel. He is so advanced. No, not my son.”

I bypassed the know-it-all nurse who told me not to worry and took him straight in to the doctor. He was seen right away, and he confirmed that Gabriel was having a severe reaction to MMR. He said the screaming was most likely due to brain swelling. At that point his fever was coming down, and his screaming was less frequent, so he sent us home. He asked his nurse to pull up the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) papers to file a report with the Health Department.

It appeared at first that the ordeal had left Gabriel exhausted. He didn’t seem himself. He started talking less. He wasn’t interested in any of his toys. He would stare at a ceiling fan for hours. He would wake up several times a night screaming, and when we would attempt to console him he would scream harder. Something was happening, but when we brought up our concerns at his 18 month appointment, we were told that some babies just advanced differently and we really shouldn’t be concerned. He was given his next round of shots.

By the time he was two he wasn’t talking at all. Our concerns were again dismissed by his pediatrician. My gut told me to skip the shots this time and we did. We hoped the doctor was right and Gabriel was just going to catch up later, but insisted on a second opinion. He referred us to Early Intervention where he was evaluated for speech delay, and worked weekly with a speech therapist and other specialists.

The screaming at night continued every night, several times a night. None of us ever felt well rested, and it became more and more apparent that Gabriel was not catching up with his peers. His behavior continued to become stranger. He wouldn’t play with us, but would line things up or spin in circles. He still didn’t talk.

We took him to a new pediatrician. When she walked in he was lying on the floor rubbing his head against it. We voiced our concerns, and she told us he was an obvious case of autism. She immediately ordered tests for mitochondrial disorder, heavy metal toxicity, and others, and referred us to the appropriate doctors for a diagnosis.

He not only tested autistic, but very autistic. I remember being glad we had a diagnosis, but finally feeling the reality of it hit me at the same time. The prediction made to me two years back when I researched MMR vaccine reactions and saw so many lead to autism came true. It did happen, to my advanced, perfect little boy. When I was told to apply for his Social Security is when I realized this was for life. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

He was three before he finally got his diagnosis of autism. We were told it couldn’t have anything to do with his vaccine reaction.

He is turning eight this summer. He can say a few words, usually to express a want or need. He requires constant supervision, and is home-schooled because he is too “low functioning” for our district’s autism program. Life is really hard, for us, but especially for him. His world and ours are still just barely overlapping. Special diets, therapies, interventions all help, but we still have a long, bumpy road ahead of us, as life is not easy with Gabriel. We have to lock the refrigerator so a week’s worth of snacks don’t get eaten or destroyed in one sitting. His new trick is throwing entire plates of food on the floor if something isn’t just right. Toilet paper has to be monitored so the entire roll doesn’t end up in the toilet. I could go on and on, but you get it. Life is extra work around here.

Today I however want to thank Gabriel for changing our lives because had it not been for Gabriel, we would still be sleeping with the rest of the world. I would probably not even think twice about eating that sugary cupcake with the brightly colored sprinkles. I might still be feeding my family boxed dinners. I would still have no clue GMOs. I might even think a bag of fries from McDonalds was a treat. And I most certainly would have continued to let the doctors inject anything they fancied into my little babies.

Thank you, Gabriel. Your sacrifice was great. You have a long road ahead of you. But you saved us, and we love you so much. Bless you, my dear, sweet little boy.

Since my son’s vaccine reaction, I have read everything I can on vaccine safety, efficacy, and the diseases they are designed to prevent. Here is a small compilation of the more important facts I have discovered that have reinforced my decision to no longer vaccinate my children.

We tend to fear what we don’t know, so first a little about the diseases we are so afraid of.

The disease many parents seem the most afraid of is polio. The truth is, most cases of polio produce mild cold-like symptoms or pass with no symptoms at all. The disease itself is spread by the unpasteurized milk of infected cattle. The last natural case of paralytic polio in the US was in 1979. All cases since then have been from the live virus vaccine. Given that most Americans don’t drink unpasteurized milk anymore and we haven’t seen a natural case of the disease in over thirty-five years, the chance of polio returning to the US is highly unlikely.

Likewise, where there has not been a death from measles in the US in 15 years, there have been dozens of reported deaths and hundreds of adverse events reported against the vaccine. My mother’s generation told stories of everyone on their block getting measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella. In those days everyone got them, and no one really fears these diseases until the childhood vaccine program was introduced. My generation all had the chicken pox. It meant a week off school, oatmeal baths and lifelong immunity.

We also pass naturally acquired immunity to our unborn babies in utero, and continue to immunize them naturally with our breast milk. Not so in vaccinated mothers.

In fact, the vaccine program has essentially shifted the targeted age of many of these diseases from school age children, where we see the least number of complications, to infants and adults. In the case of pertussis, babies are most vulnerable to complications from the disease during the first two months of life. Since we do not give the first vaccine until two months of age, and vaccinated mothers do not pass maternal immunity, we have essentially created a window of vulnerability in our newborn infant population. So where my generation was protected by maternal antibodies from pertussis during the first few months of life, this generation is seeing the disease kill babies. Furthermore, as childhood vaccines wear off, we will likely see diseases like mumps and chickenpox that are relatively mild in childhood resurface in our adult population where the diseases can be serious or even life-threatening.

There is also evidence that vaccines don’t work as well as we think. Merck admitted last year that the mumps component of the MMR is only effective about 50% of the time. Those affected in the recent mumps outbreaks were all vaccinated. As many as 95% of recent pertussis cases were in vaccinated individuals. The flu vaccine is less than 30% effective in preventing the flu, depending on the year. Some years it is totally useless. Since only three strains of flu are included in the vaccine, and there are 250+ flu and flu-like viruses circulating every year, the vaccine is a crap shoot at best. Yet every year flu vaccines are pushed at every drug store and doctors office, so people flock to get them. Because of this, more adverse events are reported against this vaccine than all other vaccines combined. It is also important to note that while the ethyl mercury preservative Thimerosal has been essentially removed from all childhood vaccines, most flu vaccines still contain a full 25 mg of mercury, and they are still given to developing children as young as six months old and pregnant mothers, although its safety has not been tested on either group.

While many tout the necessity of vaccines for saving us from disease, statistics show vaccine preventable diseases and associated deaths were on a steep and steady natural decline before the introduction of vaccines. If vaccines were a necessary ingredient in the decline of infectious disease, then what vaccine can we thank for the decline of the Plague? How about Scarlet Fever? The truth is, decline of the infectious disease era can be attributed mainly to changes in hygiene, sanitation, clean water, and nutrition. Think about it. Smallpox disappeared completely while it is estimated as few as 10% of the population received the vaccine, a far cry from the 90% required for “herd immunity.”

Herd immunity actually only exists in nature where exposure of a herd to disease incurs lifelong immunity. When was the last time you were vaccinated? If it was 5-10 years ago or more, you are no longer immunized. In fact, most people vaccinated before 2004 are no longer immunized. If such a large chunk of our population has no immunity to these diseases, why aren’t we seeing a resurgence of measles in our baby boomers? Why aren’t adults being crippled today by polio? Shouldn’t we expect our unvaccinated adult population to be virulently spreading disease and dropping like flies? What makes my unvaccinated child a public health threat but not my unvaccinated adult neighbor? Herd immunity from vaccines, because of their questionable and short-lived efficacy, is nothing more than a myth.

I feel it is equally important to address the thousands of parents who claim to have witnessed their child regress into autism following a severe vaccine reaction. While “correlation does not equal causation,” it is irresponsible to ignore such a strong correlation. Autism rates continue to skyrocket. Recently released data from the CDC estimates 1:68 children has autism, up 30% in just two years from 1:88 in 2012. And these statistics reflect data collected in 2010, so the actual numbers are much higher. Given the 30% increase trajectory over two years of CDC study, the 2014 estimate would be more like 1:29. That cannot be scientifically explained by better diagnostics or wider criteria. The experts can’t agree why autism rates are going up, and yet our only eye witnesses are ignored.

To me the connection was obvious. It was as plain as watching my child fall off a bike, then come in the house with a skinned knee. I would conclude the injury was from the fall, of course. For me to assume it was only a coincidence would be absurd. His knee wasn’t skinned before, he crashed his bike, and now he is injured. Yet that is how parents are answered. “We don’t know what causes autism, but it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with his adverse vaccine reaction.” Severe vaccine reactions are almost always written off as coincidence, and are grossly under-reported as a result.

Many claim the autism-vaccine link is nothing more than an elaborate fraud, citing a paper written by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that was published in a peer-reviewed journal but later retracted. Dr. Wakefield’s findings, however, have been replicated a dozen times by independent researchers, and his research team has since been exonerated. Furthermore, independent research as well as newly released documents by the CDC reveals that exposure to chemicals found in vaccines such as mercury and aluminum do increase the risk for developmental disease such as autism. However, 22 of the 24 research papers available from the CDC disproving the link between vaccines and autism may be discounted as fraud. The “principal investigator” and co-author of the papers, Dr. Poul Thorsen, was indicted for fraud and accused of misallocation of autism research funds totaling over $1 million. He has been charged with 13 counts of wire fraud and nine counts of money laundering, and is currently on the FBI’s most wanted list. Needless to say, people on both sides of the argument can confidently say the jury is still out.

While it is important to look at the science on both sides, it is equally important to examine how the studies were performed and who did them. Many times there are conflicts of interest and financial incentives, creating an environment where experiments are catered to a certain preferred outcome. Safety studies of vaccines are what I call junk science, utilizing small test groups and short test periods, rarely implementing a true placebo, usually testing a vaccine against a vaccine adjuvant or another already approved vaccine. That’s like testing vodka against rum and concluding that drinking rum does not lead to alcoholism because just as many vodka drinkers became alcoholics.

Furthermore, the health outcomes of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children has never been studied by the CDC. Neither has the current vaccine schedule been tested, yet it continues to mandate an ever increasing number of vaccines. Today the CDC recommends giving 49 vaccines before kindergarten. That is more than any other country in the world.

On the legal end of vaccine injury is a complication called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. This act essentially took all liability from vaccine injury off the manufacturers that make them and the doctors who administer them. A parent can no longer simply sue for damages. These cases are brought before a special federal court where the usual judge, jury, and access to discovery are not offered. Furthermore, injuries must meet very narrow criteria, and lawsuits must be filed within three years of injury. Because autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders can take years to diagnose, a vast majority fail to reach the closing window in time. Although 2 out of 3 cases are dismissed, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out almost $3 billion in damages and deaths since 1986. The money awarded does not come from the vaccine manufacturers either. It comes out of a tax paid on every vaccine purchased. So, essentially, when a vaccine injury does occur, it is paid for by the consumer. And contrary to popular belief, at least 82 claimants awarded damages in federal court have been autistic children.

I urge parents to look at the information for themselves and truly weigh the benefits and risks. Parents need to know that vaccine exemptions are available in 48 of the 50 states, so children can still go to school if you opt out. While vaccine-preventable disease may be a real risk, the risk of vaccine injury is very real as well. Look deep. These are our kids.

Erin Barker

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