Guest post: Finn's story and why vaccination is so critical

Guest post by Jessica Parsons.

In November 2013 my son, Finn, was diagnosed at 3 months old with Ewing Sarcoma. The news that your child has a potentially life threatening disease at the beginning of their life is something that no parent is prepared for. Despite the scary news, he has completed 9 of the 14 rounds of chemotherapy without many problems. After 6 months of relatively easy treatment and ruled "cancer free," he has overcome more than most grown adults. He has had two surgeries, ten blood transfusions and countless shots but still maintains a happy demeanor.

Every part of his treatment came to a screeching halt at the beginning of April, when fever and cough landed him in the hospital. Finn was diagnosed with pertussis ("whooping cough") and the steady downhill slope of his health happened quickly: he went from a happy, smiling baby to one the doctors were not sure would ever come home. He was intubated, 100% sedated and medically paralyzed so that he could have a machine breathe for him. He was kept alive by intubation for 12 heart-wrenching days before he was able to slowly be weaned from the machines.

Finn hospitalized with pertussis Finn hospitalized with pertussis

While watching Finn fight for his life, like every parent would ask, the persistent question of " how could this happen to my baby?" kept playing over and over in my head. The doctors all agreed that because he could not be immunized, he had likely come into contact with someone who was not vaccinated and contracted the bacterium. Finn has beaten cancer by 9 months' old but was almost taken down by a vaccine-preventable disease. Finn, like other immunosuppressed people, require herd immunity to survive and to help them finish their treatment without further struggle.

Finn recovered from pertussis Finn,recovered from pertussis and beating cancer

Please think of Finn when you are considering whether or not to vaccinate your children, and remember that adults need booster vaccines as well to protect our most vulnerable. You can help support Finn at the Fighting for Finn site.

Jessica is an Executive Director of Financial Services and the wife of an Army Emergency Care Sergeant. She quit her job to take care of her son and has been a full-time bedside nurse for him since.


More like this

Sorry to hear about your child.

By NaturallyMe (not verified) on 29 Apr 2014 #permalink

Guilt seems to be more work than science in the vaccination debate.

This is an interesting debate. How do you explain the fact that my sons both had whooping cough even though they were vaccinated prior to that time? In fact, they were the only ones of my kids who were vaccinated on schedule. Several years later I had a doctor argue with me that the diagnosis was wrong rather than acknowledge that the vaccine had not helped. (The whoop was very clear and the doctor we saw diagnosed it immediately. I had not recognized it--I just knew it was a violent, constant cough.)

My heart was in my throat for a second until I saw the second picture. So glad to hear your boy recovered. I'm going to bookmark this page to give to every anti-vaccination person I see spouting off.

By Daniel Welch (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

LeeAnn, vaccinated children may get Whooping Cough. They will not get it as badly as unvaccinated children.

No vaccine is perfect and some vaccines have a higher rate of failure to protect than others - this is whooping cough vaccine.

Never the less, a vaccinated community significantly reduces the risk to all children, specially children like Finn, who are immuno-comprised.

By Maddy Jones (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

Vaccination is not 100% effective. There is always a small to tiny percent of the population for whom vaccination does not produce immunity (This percentage varies with vaccine and disease).
This is just like catching the disease itself. For most people, catching Whooping cough (Pertussis) means you become resistant and will not suffer from the disease again. However a small percentage of the population will catch the disease more than once.
Unfortunately that also means that there is a much greater chance that those indivicuals for whom the vaccine did not produce immunity can catch the disease more than once, with just as bad a result. Thus, like the immunocompromised individuals who can't be vaccinated, those individuals rely on herd immunity. (It is all about probabilities).

LeeAnn, the pertussis portion of the vaccine is a textbook example of balancing effectiveness and side effects. The old (more effective) version was thought to perhaps cause too many adverse reactions, so a new version (with the "acellular" pertussis portion) was licensed in 2005. This new version isn't as good at protecting people and wanes faster, but it seems to cause fewer bad reactions. Those who are vaccinated, if they get pertussis, generally get a much milder disease, but for kids like Finn who can't be vaccinated, it's critical to be sure that others are up-to-date on their vaccines in order to protect him and others with similar conditions. I hate to think how this story might have ended if he'd gotten measles...

Thank you for telling the story, Dr. Smith, and Ms. Parsons.

By Ed Darrell (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

Thank you for sharing your story...I have followed you and Finns struggle for awhile now and now understand the seriousness of vaccination! Prayers for a healthy future!

By AhLan Aina (not verified) on 30 Apr 2014 #permalink

LeeAnn from Kentucky-

No vaccine is 100% effective. Some people do not respond and the fact that both of your sons got the same disease is supported by current research that certain genetics play a role in who gets infected.

By vaccinating your children, you protected other children and you reduced the severity of the disease in your children.

This isn't a mystery. We need to acknowledge the science behind vaccinations and acknowledge that vaccinations aren't 100% effective. Neither are seat belts 100% effective
But you would never let your kid ride without one, would you?

At a very young he was able to fight with the challenges that this world gave. I was touched by your story (Finn) and how strong you inside to fight with your sickness. Your a brave young boy, indeed! All my prayers are for you and always seek God in all the times and NEVER EVER LOSE FAITH UNTO HIM. Much love from the Philippines ♥

By Angelica Senajon (not verified) on 03 May 2014 #permalink

My mom lived in a rural community before vaccines were available. One year _every_ child in her village under the age of 5 died because of whooping cough. An incident like that leaves a lifelong impression. My mother was a strong advocate of vaccinations. -- I think part of the problem with the anti-vax crowd is that we no longer have these types of incidents happening but, we are still vulnerable if people don't understand herd immunity. Witness the re-emergence of polio in other parts of the world - a devastating disease that is completely preventable.

No one should be allowed to endanger the common weal by refusing immunization. Yet there are citizens who refuse inoculation for themselves or their children because of religious reasons. In the presence of imminent danger to lives of the community, religious preference should have absolutely no say!
The plethora of scientific evidence and modern advances in medicine trumps any beliefs in religious magic when lives are at stake.

The old whole-cell pertussis vaccine was a pain - every vaccination our child would be feverish for the next day. With free vaccinations offered on week night evenings in our area, that was incompatible with work. The acellular one has a much lower rate of this "trivial" side effect.
As Abbie Smith has repeatedly explained, there is a large random component in our response to a vaccine or infection.…

I agree with Dan (PA USA). Religious views have caused more than enough problems for our world, wars, famine, disease. though I am not a recognised scientist nor do I have much experiance in this particular field of Biology, I understand the importance of vaccination. The fact remains that to not have yourself or your children immunised against these diseases is just pure stupidity on the most basic level. The real magic here is science, not God.

Well, my question is how many people are out there who do not vaccinate their children? There are fools that can not be saved.
So next question is: Why is this topic so popular? I'm asking this because I guess that there are more people believing that the government is run by Lizards, than people believing vaccination is hazardous.
So what is the matter with this obsession of anti-vac. folks?

By Jimmy Senkov (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Was wondering did the baby receive vaccines at birth and also the 2month vaccines?

By Concerned Parent (not verified) on 16 Jul 2014 #permalink