Jenny McCarthy, Vaccines, and Botox

Jenny McCarthy has long been at the forefront of the anti-vaccine movement. Despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, she continues to insist that vaccines are linked to autism. The method seems to change as each method suggested gets shot down, but still too many parents keep their children unvaccinated and exposed to dangerous diseases.  I won’t go into the reasons why the anti-vaccine crowd is wrong.  I’ll leave that to Bad Astronomy.  However, if there’s one thing I don’t like it’s hypocracy and I just found what I consider to be a big pile of it.  Jenny McCarthy doesn’t like vaccines, but apparently, she’s a fan of Botox.  Something just seems wrong to me about this.  She doesn’t like vaccine injections for fear of medical repurcussions, but she is fine with getting Bubonic Plague injected directly into her face?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds that odd.

EDIT: Charlie Young over at Bad Astronomy has corrected me:  "Botox is derived from the toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. So even though she is getting injected with a powerful paralytic neurotoxin, it is not the plague."

Fair enough.  Still, though, being injected with a paralytic neurotoxin just to ward off a few wrinkles is better than getting a vaccine to ward off a debilitating illness?  Not in my book.

The Scariest Moments of My Life

If being a parent has taught me anything, it’s that your scariest moments in life will always involve your children.  Thinking back to my pre-parent/pre-married days, my scariest moments involved asking a girl out.  It seemed scary at the time, but it was nothing compared to my children’s Top Four (listed below in chronological order):

1.  NHL’s Febrile Seizure:  It was July 2004.  We had just moved into our new house and we were one month away from NHL’s first birthday.  We were supposed to visit my grandmother downstate, but the weekend was *NOT* going well.  B’s beloved cockatoo, Moose, had taken ill suddenly and passed away literally in her arms.  We stayed up late that night digging a grave for him and B was understandably distraught, so we cancelled our trip.  In hindsight, it was a good thing.

NHL was playing on the floor like he usually did.  I picked him up and happened to brush my hand across his forehead.  It was burning hot.  I remember getting the feeling that, if I didn’t remove my hand from his head, it would be burnt.  Yes, he was burning up so much it triggered my "fire hot" response!  We took his temp and it was 103 (if memory serves).  We called the doctor and he said to strip him, give him Motrin and Tylenol, and put him in a lukewarm tub.  We did all that.  While I sponged lukewarm water on his body, B went off to find a towel.  I felt NHL’s forehead again and felt it get very hot, very fast.  I called for B and she came in.  He looked up at her, but there was no recognition in his eyes.  Then his eyes rolled back and his head slumped backwards.  I quickly lifted him out of the tub and SCARY MOMENT #1 began.

NHL was lifeless in my arms.  I seriously thought he was dead.  He began to turn blue as we put him on our bed.  Then he began to twitch.  B frantically called 911.  I felt useless.  There was my baby in front of me in serious trouble and I couldn’t do anything to help.  I searched my memory for something, ANYTHING that I could do.  I remembered something about not letting them swallow their tongue.  (Yes, now I know this can’t happen, but I didn’t know at the time.)  I pried his clenched jaws open and tried to move his tongue out.

By the time the emergency personnel came, NHL had started breathing again, though he wasn’t conscious.  We got into the ambulance and headed to the hospital, B in back with NHL, me in the front.  Hearing NHL scream bloody murder never sounded so good.  It turned out that he had Koksaki virus.  That caused the fever which triggered the febrile seizure.  That night B passed out from the sheer exhaustion of the weekend’s events, but I couldn’t sleep.  I’d look down at NHL sleeping next to us and could feel myself getting more anxious every time his fever went up and less anxious every time it went down.  Luckily, after a few days, his fever broke and he was ok.

2.  JSL’s First Febrile Seizure:  One night, last February, after NHL was asleep, we noticed that JSL was running a fever.  We called the doctor and B’s parents.  They got in first and the doctor recommended the same course of action that he did the night of NHL’s seizure.  I objected to the tub since that’s when NHL seized, but I was reassured that it would help his fever.  Nevertheless, I insisted that B have a towel at the ready and not stray from the tub.

JSL went in the tub and after some time splashing, my worst fears came true and SCARY MOMENT #2 began.  JSL began to seize.  We picked him up, but he decided to one up his brother.  Instead of turning blue, like NHL, he turned grey.  He also stopped breathing (like NHL did), but didn’t start breathing again on his own.  As my mother-in-law did rescue breaths on him, I ran from the front door (looking for the already-called-for-ambulance) and the bedroom where JSL lay.  My father-in-law offered to look out the door for me.  He meant well but he didn’t seem to understand.  I needed to *DO* something.  Even if that something was completely useless.  If I wasn’t doing something, then I’d be just staring at my baby’s lifeless body and I couldn’t take that at the moment.

Finally, JSL started breathing again and the emergency personnel came.  They took JSL to the hospital.  I followed in my car with my mother-in-law.  My father-in-law stayed at our house to look after the still-sleeping NHL.  We spent the entire night in the ER.  Literally.  At around 4am we were given a room at the pediatric ward.  They didn’t know what was wrong and wanted to keep him under observation.  It worried them that he didn’t begin breathing again on his own.  For the next 4 days, that room was B and JSL’s home.  Finally, an ear infection showed itself and could be treated.

3. JSL’s Fall:  JSL has had a lot of self-inflicted head injuries.  Whether it be him trying to head-butt someone/something, or just trying to run faster than he can, he seems to have a bullseye on his forehead.  This usually results in a gooseegg, a short screaming session, and then another daring-do JSL run.  This December 2008 night, though, was different.  We were at B’s parent’s house with a bunch of her family.  Dinner had already been eaten and we were playing for a bit before dessert.  JSL was running after B’s father with only socks on his feet.  They ran into the kitchen and we heard a loud klunk!  B’s father came in carrying JSL and said he went up in the air and hit the back of his head.  (This Charlie Brown and the Football.)

He cried for me so I tried to soothe him.  That didn’t work.  So we figured that dessert would be a good distraction.  He refused chocolate.  Now we knew something was definitely up.  SCARY MOMENT #3 was about to begin.  B’s grandmother mentioned that JSL looked pale and then, as the rest of us concurred, he spaced out.  Seriously spaced out.  We took him into the kitchen, kept NHL occupied in the family room with the TV, and called 911.  Tons of emergency workers came out of the snow outside and filled up my in-law’s house.  As they prepared to take JSL to the hospital, B slipped on a wet bootprint and jammed her hand.  It wasn’t serious, but it’d hurt her for some time to come.

B and JSL went in the ambulence while I went in the car.  As I pulled out, and the ambulence pulled away, a neighbor of my in-laws stopped me to ask what was going on.  I quickly told her but then excused myself because the ambulence was getting away.  The ambulence wound through a bunch of side streets and I did my best to keep up.  Did I mention that it had just snowed?  No?  Well, it did.  The roads were really slick and I was afraid that I’d wind up slamming into a parked car while trying to follow the ambulence.

By the time I got to the hospital and got in to see B and JSL, JSL was finally alert.  They examined him and determined that his fall had given him a concussion.  After awhile, he was walking around the ER both to our delight (he’s ok!) and fright (he’s wearing socks on slick tile flooring!!!).

4.  JSL’s Second Seizure:  This one is probably my scariest moment ever for the simple facts that it: Happened only a few days ago (Saturday night) and involved choking which scares me to death.  We had bought a new bike and helmet for NHL and were trying the helment on to see if it was too small.  (It is.)  While we were doing this, JSL was playing on the floor about 2 feet away.  Suddenly JSL leaned forward and grunted.  I first thought he was pooping.  He hadn’t gone all day and could be constipated.  Then, B realized that he wasn’t pooping.  "He’s CHOKING!" She shouted.  Queue SCARY MOMENT #4!  I ran off to get a phone while B did the heimlich manuver and administered back blows.  We had no idea what he could be choking on, but whatever it was wasn’t coming out.  I called 911 and told them my child was choking.  JSL wasn’t responding and was quickly turning blue.

NHL, spared from the previous JSL scares by sleep or TV, was a full witness to this one.  He saw his little brother go limp and lifeless.  He saw JSL foam at the mouth.  He saw Mommy and Daddy panic as JSL wouldn’t respond.  He saw Mommy try to pry open JSL’s mouth to work her fingers inside.  She managed to do it, but then he clamped down again, trapping her fingers in his mouth.

I opened the door and looked out for the ambulence.  No sign of them.  From experience, I knew they were less than 5 minutes away, but suddenly 5 minutes seemed like an eternity.  Finally, I heard a siren.  I ran inside to tell B that the police were here.  NHL ran to the door and shouted at the officer:  "He’s here!  He’s here!  My little brother’s right there!"  The officer didn’t seem to do much to help, but luckily the emergency room personell came soon after.  They flooded the room and I was quickly pushed away from B and JSL by the crowd.  I put NHL on the couch to get him out of the way.

In a display of 5 year old coping mechanism, NHL shifted from being worried about his brother’s well-being to being upset that he couldn’t see the TV.  Then, after B’s parents arrived and were getting him ready to go to their house, he began crying.  He was upset that he’d miss Hebrew school tomorrow!  5 year old coping again.  Your mind can’t handle the big issue so focus on a small one.

B’s father took NHL to his house while B’s mother and I went to the hospital.  By this point, we knew he wasn’t choking.  After all, he would have been unconscious long before the first responders showed up.  In hind-sight, the seizure signs were all there:  Clenched jaw, convulsions (though seizing up muscles, not twitching which threw us), foaming at the mouth, etc.  Our only question was whether this was a febrile seizure (he didn’t seem sick before) or due to some head injury (see SCARY MOMENT #3).

At the hospital, we got our answer.  They took JSL’s temperature and it was 103.5.  That pointed to a febrile seizure.  They listened to his chest and looked in his ears but couldn’t figure out why he had a fever.  After some prompting, they looked in his mouth, but didn’t find anything.  They also didn’t do any blood tests.  Instead, they gave JSL some Motrin and sent us on our way.  Rest assured that an angry phone call is planned.

That’s the end of SCARY MOMENT #4, but not the end of the story.  For the rest of the story, head on over to B’s blog and read: 13 Months later – the nightmare returns, Two febrile seizures in less than 30 hours, and Spring FEVER update.

Autism, Amish, and Logical Fallacies

There was a post on today referencing an article about the Amish and Autism.  The article claimed that the Amish don’t raise their children and also don’t have any instances of Autism.  This, the article implied, was proof that vaccines caused (or at least were somehow linked to) autism.  Something about their reasoning didn’t sound right to me, so I did some digging.  It wasn’t hard.  A simple Google search for "autism Amish" turned up another article.  This article pointed out that many Amish do indeed vaccinate and that there are autistic Amish.  Their rates may appear lower, but there’s a reason for that:

[Dr. Kevin Strauss, MD, a pediatrician at the CSC] says a child in the general population is more likely to have autism detected early and to receive a diagnosis than an Amish child. "Amish child may not be referred to an MD or psychologist because the child is managed in the community, where they have special teachers," he says. "We know autism when we see it, but we don’t go actively into the Amish community and screen for ASD."

So the Amish aren’t as likely to take their children to the doctors who would diagnose the child as autisic.  Since the child wouldn’t be diagnosed, the autistic Amish child wouldn’t be listed in the statistics and the Amish would appear to have few, if any, cases of autism.

However, there’s a deeper flaw in the original Amish-Autism article that goes beyond lack of facts.  Even if the Amish didn’t vaccinate and even if the Amish had a lower, or even zero, rate of autism, that wouldn’t mean that vaccinations cause autism.  Correlation does not imply causation.  There are a lot of other factors that could lower the Amish rate of autism (assuming still that it was indeed lowered and not a statistical fluke caused by low reporting numbers).  Perhaps all the fresh air helps the development of the brain.  Perhaps working in a field has some benefit.  Perhaps the Amish simply tend to reproduce within their own community and their gene pool doesn’t contain as many genetic risk factors for autism.

To put the Correlation-Causation link another way, imagine a study that was made counting the number of firefighters at a blaze and how big the fire was.  You’d be sure to find out that there were more firefighters at the biggest fires.  If correlation equaled causation, you might conclude that firefighters caused fires and a lot of firefighters caused BIG fires.  In truth, the cause of the fires would be completely unrelated to the firefighters’ presence.

The Internet is a great resouce, but with the good information comes misinformation.  One must always take articles one reads online with a grain of salt and a critical eye especially if said article claims a conspiracy theory (that the author somehow uncovered despite the best efforts of the hugely powerful conspirators) or a scientific breakthrough found out by someone who hasn’t had (or won’t have) their work peer reviewed.  If the author is claiming a scientific conspiracy to keep something quiet, then your BS detector should be blaring sirens and flashing red warning lights like crazy.

The autism-vaccine link has been looked into multiple times and, save for a few isolated instances, no link has been found.  (One of the major studies used to back up the autism-vaccine claim was recently accused of falsifying data.)  If multiple studies don’t uncover a clear pattern, then any outliers that seem to indicate links are likely the result of other factors.

No, we don’t know everything about autism, but a few things are clear:  1) Vaccines protect us from dangerous diseases.  Look up Polio one day.  Images like this one have all but vanished in our modern world thanks to vaccines.  2) Not vaccinating your child puts them at risk.  Many diseases (e.g. measles) are making comebacks thanks to a growing number of unvaccinated children.  You can’t simply not vaccinate and trust that your child will always be surrounded by vaccinated children.  3) Children are exposed to millions of germs every day.  The one to five that they get in one vaccine is nothing for their immune system.  It is certainly preferable that they be exposed to the vaccine versions of the germs (which are mostly incapable of causing the disease) rather than be exposed to the full disease-causing version.

An extremely scary weekend

We just had a scary weekend.  We were at B’s parents house Saturday night celebrating Chanukah a night early.  Gifts were opened, kids were excited, a meal was eaten – so far, so good.  Then – before dessert was served – we took some more time to play with the kids.  JSL went chasing after B’s father and slipped on the kitchen floor (he was in his socks which apparently didn’t have enough traction).  He landed right on the back of his head.

B’s father brought him right to me as he screamed.  He’s hit his head quite a few times, so we first thought nothing of it and proceeded with dessert to try to distract him from the fall.  During dessert, he refused a chocolate covered pretzel.  (JSL refuse chocolate?  Something *must* be wrong!)  Then we noticed that he was extremely pale, started shaking, and was glassy eyed.  We called 911 with visions of his febrile seizure running through our heads.

The paramedics came and checked him out.  During the checkout, he didn’t complain at all.  (Another non-JSL-like reaction.)  They decided to take him to the hospital.  B ran to get his stuff.  Of course, they were coming in from the snowy outdoors and B didn’t notice the water they brought in.  She slid and jammed her finger and arm.

We headed to the hospital, B in the ambulance and me in the car.  NHL stayed with B’s parents.  I heard him complaining to them that he couldn’t sleep there tonight because he didn’t have his "buddies." I followed the ambulance across some pretty treacherous roads (unplowed narrow city roads with cars on both sides).

Finally, we got to the hospital.  I had to wait 10 minutes for them to get checked in so I could see B and JSL.  (Technically, I was a visitor since B was the one who came in with him.)  When I walked in, JSL seemed a bit better.  He actually requested his binky – something he hadn’t done the past hour.  (Another *HUGE* non-JSL behavior.  He’s a binky addict.)  He also walked around the ER, taking off away from me to see something that interested him.

They determined that he had a concussion and possibly a mini-seizure from the fall.  They told us to wake him up a few times during that night and the next one and take him in to see the doctor on Monday.  (B’s actually taking him tomorrow due to the weather.)  I’m hoping for a boring week this week.

Sick NHL, Bad Reactions, and Pee (This post not for the faint of tummy)

I’m back from my trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  Everything went well there.  My friend is now married and I have over 1,100 photos of the time I spent there.  More on that later.

On Sunday, NHL woke up and was acting odd.  He didn’t want to eat breakfast and asked to go back to sleep.  Not on the couch watching TV, mind you.  He wanted to go back to bed.  (Sign #1 that something is wrong, a nap with no TV is *ASKED FOR*!!!)  After about an hour’s nap, he woke up and went to Hebrew School.

When we picked him up, he seemed tired.  We went to the grocery story to pick up some food.  He and JSL sat in a car cart next to each other.  NHL complained that he was hungry.  Fair enough, it was lunchtime.  So we tried to get him some food but he kept going between hungry and not hungry.  Finally, we got him some pretzel crisps and went through the aisles quickly.  At the dairy aisle, the second to last aisle we needed to go in, he suddenly gagged and hurled all over himself, the cart and the floor.

Now here is where my bad reaction comes into play.  Ever since NHL has been little, I seem to have this reaction when he vomits.  I instinctively try to catch it to contain the mess.  It never works, always gets me messy, yet the reaction persists.  It’s not a conscious decision either.  It just seems to be something that I do as a split-second reaction to my son vomiting.  I don’t know why I do it

So there I am standing with vomit dripping down my hands in the dairy aisle.  My wife took JSL to get someone to help clean up the mess.  (Luckily, NHL turned away from JSL when he performed the Technicolored Yawn, so JSL was spared the mess.)

When she came back, I cleaned us up the best I could and took NHL to the restroom.  He complained on the way that he was going to hurl again, so we hurried.  Once in the bathroom, though, he tummy must have settled a bit because he didn’t need to.  However, the restroom was equiped with a hot air hand dryer (a "blower" in NHL-speak) and not paper towels.  So I grabbed handfuls of toilet paper, wet them, and tried to use it to clean up the vomit on NHL’s clothes (as well as the specks of toilet paper that started ripping off and sticking to his clothes).  It wasn’t a great job, but it was good enough for the moment.

Back we went to B to find that they had taken the cart away to be hosed off.  They were coming with a new cart and a mop.  Meanwhile, B was guarding the "spill zone" with JSL while watching our groceries.  I took JSL and NHL and headed to the car.  (Along the way, I saw an employee heading back to my wife with another car cart.  He saw me taking the boys away and said he’d get her a regular cart.)  At the car, NHL was clearly distressed.  He wanted to go home *now*.  I calmed him down the best I could until B got back.  Then we headed home.

At home, we saw that NHL was spiking a fever.  Motrin went in and NHL went to nap for a bit.  His fever seemed to pass, but he still wasn’t hungry for dinner.  A juice box and half of a apple juice popsicle was all he had the rest of the day.  Luckily, this morning, his fever appeared to be gone and he actually requested breakfast.  Hopefully, he’s on the mend.

My Gross Day wasn’t over though.  JSL had needed a tub, and a dinner of buttered noodles didn’t help.  Just before his tub, he decided to poop.  I couldn’t change his diaper *AND* clean/fill the tub at the same time, so B agreed to change his diaper.  Unfortunately, she didn’t wait until I was ready and soon a naked JSL was wandering about the house while I waited for the "clean the tub" water to go down the drain.

As the tub drained, B told JSL: "Out of the living room.  I don’t want you peeing on the carpet.  Go to Daddy."  Can you guess what comes next?   I suddenly felt wet on my leg.  I saw that the water was way to low for me to have accidentally splashed myself and I saw JSL turning and walking away.  Yes, JSL did as Mommy asked and went to Daddy to pee.  (Ok, it might not have been what Mommy meant, but apparently JSL is very literal.)

So yesterday I was puked on by one kid and peed on by the other.  I guess that’s the payback I get for being out of town for 3.5 days.

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