Chiropractic saved my life but I’ll save that story for another time. When I went to Chiropractic college I went in with a strong philosophy. I received a great education and graduated in 2008. When we became pregnant with our daughter in 2011, as you can imagine, the topic of vaccination was a common discussion. My wife looked to me as the authority on health. She would jokingly say about everything, “Didn’t you learn that in Chiropractic College.” It is a simple fact, everything you need to know you learn in Chiropractic College.
However, I couldn’t remember a single lecture on vaccination. Not one! After my wife and I had many discussions about our philosophy and some research, together we decided to refuse any vaccines and revisit the topic when our daughter turned 2 years old. I began to read articles and educate myself more extensively on the topic. The more I read, the less I was convinced that we should vaccinate our daughter. I felt like I gained enough information to find my stance on the issue. At the same time I was hesitant and self conscious about sharing my opinion with others. Especially, with my patients because the last thing I ever wanted was to come across as judgmental or to push my beliefs on them. So I generally avoided the conversation in practice. I knew my stance on vaccination, but I didn’t have my voice.
In October of 2013 my life in practice changed forever. I had a patient who had been through corrective care and stayed on a monthly wellness schedule. I knew we were going to get along great because after his first adjustment he looked right at me and said, “This is better than the regular doctor!” He was about my age, quiet and kind. I continued to educate him about chiropractic in subsequent visits and one day he came in looking stressed. He explained that he and his wife were pregnant. I congratulated him and I assured him that having a child is an amazing experience. He just listened and looked more stressed. The next visit he told me they were having a girl. I said, “You’re going to love having a daughter.” He said, “Really? I want a boy.” Then I told him, “I get it! I want a boy too, but there is something about how your little girl hugs you that I just can’t explain how amazing that feels.” Dads, if you have a daughter, you know what I mean. He just stared at me and then said, “you’re sure girls are okay?” I smiled. He smiled back and said “Okay I’ll see you next month.”
He continued with his wellness program and then he missed his September appointment. Then he came in a week or two later. I knew something was up because he was talking with my CA and he is usually so quiet. I went in to adjust him and when I looked into his eyes I could tell something was terribly wrong. So I asked him. And he looked at me and he said “Our baby died.” I said, “Oh my God I’m so sorry. What happened?” Then he told me the story, “Well everything went fine. We labored all night and she was born perfectly healthy and normal. About twelve hours later the nurse came in and asked me if we wanted to give her the Hep B vaccine. I asked do most people get it? She said yes, so I said okay and they gave her the shot. My wife nursed her in the bed and we all fell asleep. Then the doctor came in about 40 minutes later and she was dead in my wife’s arms.”
I couldn’t speak. I knew there was nothing I could say that would come close to comforting this man. Then he looked right into my eyes and said, “Did you give your daughter that shot?” And with tears building up in my eyes I told him the truth. “No… I didn’t.”
And then I heard the next question in my head, the one that he has never asked me, “WHY, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME???”
I wrapped my arms around this big man who felt the amazing joy of fatherhood for only twelve hours. Twelve hours of joy now turned a lifetime of pain. I adjusted him and hugged him again, I told him I would pray for him and he walked to the door. He looked back at me and said, “They’re saying its SIDS. That it is because my wife fell asleep with her in the bed, but I don’t know.” Then he just walked out of the office.
I felt like I was going to throw up. I walked into my massage room because no one was there. I wanted to scream “SIDS! SIDS! Are you KIDDING ME?” And on what planet does, “yeah, most people get it.” constitute informed consent? But, I couldn’t scream, I had an office full of patients. I looked up and there was a mirror. I just looked in the mirror and with tears streaming down my face and I said quietly, “NEVER AGAIN, NEVER AGAIN, NEVER, EVER, AGAIN.” Never again will a mother or father to be leave my office without knowing that they have a choice when it comes to vaccines. I resolved to make sure that every parent that comes through my office be given information to make an informed choice. I wiped my tears and adjusted the next patient only this time with a knife in my heart.
When I got home that night I hugged my little girl tighter than I ever had. I kissed my wife and told her the story I just told you after my daughter went to bed. Not all the time, but every so often when my daughter hugs me so tight, or says “You’re the best daddy ever!” or just smiles at me with her eyes shining, I feel that pain in my heart. My mind goes to that patient who changed the course of my life forever. There’s only one way that I’ve found to heal that wound. It’s so simple. I just hand patients a brochure and direct them to a website.
My questions may not be as simple. DO YOU KNOW YOUR STANCE ON VACCINES?
If you don’t it’s time to find it. Look around you. Look at the proposed laws throughout the country. It is not our place to make decisions for our patients but as chiropractors it is our place to educate them about what will truly make them healthy.
It is not enough just to know where you stand.
HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR VOICE?
If not, what’s it going to take? A baby died. That’s what it took for me to find my voice. If I can stop that from happening to anyone, just one person, I will have succeeded in life.
Landon Amonette DC is a loving husband, a father and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He devotes the majority of his time when he is not in full time practice, working to maintain the personal belief exemption to vaccination as a facilitator for the grassroots organization Your Family, Your Choice. To learn more or to find your voice please visit yourfamilyyourchoice.org