Giving Children a Healthy Shot@Life

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As a former resident of Washington DC, I am used to the many tour buses that circle the city showing off the various monuments, historic sites and points of interest within the city.  It’s also quite common to walk into a hotel or office complex and see a list of various and diverse groups – local, regional, national and international – that are hosting conferences and conventions around town.  It makes sense that many groups would convene here – DC draws many people to learn, to exchange ideas, and to make those ideas known to those officials who are debating and shaping the laws that govern the Nation.

While I have studied, lived and worked in DC over many years of my life – today is a first for me. Today I arrive as one of those people who voyaged here to gather with others at a national conference to share, learn, and make some noise! This afternoon I will join dozens of other individuals from across the country for the shot@life Champions Summit.

We are a diverse group from many states and backgrounds – but we share a commitment to children and to ending the heart-breaking truth that one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.

Over the next three days we will learn more about the power of vaccines and ways we can all take action to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths.  I am excited and grateful for the opportunity…and hope you will follow updates from the Summit and the Champions! To learn more, go to ShotAtLife.org.

Giving others a Shot@Life on this #GivingTuesday

Last week my son Oliver had ear tubes implanted into his ears.  His first year was full of recurring ear infections, fevers and sleepless nights…after which his pediatrician recommended the procedure. Even though ear tubes are a fairly common and “routine” procedure in modern medicine and one that will result in less pain and an improved hearing capacity for Oliver, my husband and were still nervous. We researched, we consulted an Ear Nose & Throat specialist and several others in the medical field before we decided to proceed…and even then the road was full of worry.  The process intimidated me as a mother – anesthesia was required as was recovery time, pre-surgery and post-surgery check-ins. I could not help but be concerned about the “what ifs…”

The night before his procedure, my mother (“Nana” to Oliver) sent me the following note: “I just want you to know that Nana is thinking of you all right now.  One of the hardest things bringing up children is doing what is best for them when they do not understand it and when you are the one making the decisions. I know you are doing what is best for him and soon it will be all over. “

My mom was right…Oliver is already back to his energetic and slightly mischievous self, and I am now breathing a sigh of relief knowing that his hearing will be improved and he won’t suffer from unnecessary pain or irritation in the future. I can’t help but feel very fortunate: Oliver’s surgery was an elective one that will enable him to stay healthy…one that was observed and tracked by various professionals. My son was treated in a modern, clean, and well-equipped medical clinic.  He will receive check-ups in the coming weeks to ensure he’s healing well and he will resume his ongoing check-ups, immunizations, and preventive care that he has been blessed to receive all of his life.

But what about those mothers and fathers who are not able to give their children what they know is best for them and their development?  What if there is no access to medical facilities and preventive care? There’s nothing more challenging as a parent than watching your child suffer any pain, or witnessing them fight an illness – especially a preventable one. I have visited and worked in many regions of the world in which Oliver would certainly not have access to an ENT specialist, and in fact where diseases that could have been prevented by a vaccine could fatally injure him – as they do one child every 20 seconds. Imagine being in a situation where your child is faced with such dire and dramatic health challenges, and as a parent you are not able to provide relief.

What so many of us consider standard, preventive care is a faraway dream for so many children and families in the world.  On this Giving Tuesday, I am thinking about the millions of sons and daughters around the world that deserve a “shot at life” and how we can support them. Expanding access to vaccines can prevent an additional 1.5 million deaths a year. We can all help make that happen.

Shot@Life is movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed. Learn more here: http://shotatlife.org/

Learn more about #Giving Tuesday here: http://givingtuesday.org/