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Measles outbreak too close to home

Amanda Sewell has to keep her three-year-old son, Ian, indoors due to the recent measles outbreak in Chilliwack. At eight months old, Ian had a liver transplant and because of it, he was only able to receive one of the measles vaccinations.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Amanda Sewell has to keep her three-year-old son, Ian, indoors due to the recent measles outbreak in Chilliwack. At eight months old, Ian had a liver transplant and because of it, he was only able to receive one of the measles vaccinations.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

A Chilliwack mother wishes parents would consider the dangers they’re putting on others when opting not to vaccinate their children.

For more than two weeks Amanda Sewell has lived with fear in her heart because of the measles outbreak.

The mother of three has essentially quarantined her three-year-old son Ian since first hearing of the outbreak.

It’s not the first time.

Ian had a liver transplant at eight months old.

Baby Ian

The now active toddler was born with a blockage in his bile ducts preventing the removal of bodily wastes from his liver which could have resulted in liver damage or cirrhosis – both potentially fatal.

Prior to the transplant, Ian was put on an accelerated vaccination schedule; he wouldn’t be allowed live vaccination, measles, mumps, rubella, post-operation. As such, he only received one of the measles’ vaccinations.

As well, the anti-rejection medications he requires to keep his liver protected weaken his immune system, and his doctors don’t know what sort of antibodies, if any, his replacement liver came with.

“Ian’s body has a harder time fighting off infections and diseases,” said Sewell.

“He does have some vaccinations, but who’s to say it’s sufficient enough to fight [measles] off, or to fully protect him.”

Every time Chilliwack suffers an infectious outbreak, Sewell’s family goes into damage control.

They keep Ian at home. If they must go out, they Lysol everything he might touch, and sometimes even strap a surgical mask over his mouth and nose.

It’s not the way Sewell envisioned raising her child, but until all children are vaccinated, it’s the way she must.

“Typical three-year-olds would be in preschool and swimming lessons and sporting activities, but for his protection, he can’t really be involved in those types of things,” said Sewell.

“It’s hard because you’re denying him typical, growing-up experiences when outbreaks like this occur.”

As of this week, there were 228 confirmed cases of measles in the Fraser East region. Largely these cases have been contained to a small religious community in East Chilliwack linked to the Reformed Congregation of North America. However, there have also been confirmed cases reported at BCIT in Burnaby, UFV Abbotsford, and at one of Chilliwack’s public schools.

Choosing her words carefully, Sewell expresses disappointment in those who choose not to vaccinate.

“It’s upsetting,” she said.

“The hope is that the transplant will sustain Ian through his lifetime, but there’s no guarantees. Transplants aren’t cures, they’re only treatments to a condition. Having gone through all that, I’m going to do whatever I can to protect him.

“You can’t force anyone to vaccinate,” said Sewell. “But maybe they’ll think twice about their choices. If you vaccinate your own children, you can protect them from disease, and you can also help protect kids like Ian, or cancer kids going through chemo, or others who don’t have immunity.”

For information on vaccine clinics, visit http://fraserhealth.ca/your_health/immunizations/measles/immunization/.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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