Real People, Real Stories (Chickenpox)


My decision to vaccinate my children is based on my own harrowing first-hand experience from my adolescent years.

At 14 years old I came down with chickenpox. After missing three weeks of school, I recovered and went back to class. However, months later, while at summer camp, my left eye began to hurt and became so irritated that I couldn’t keep it open. When I went to the camp clinic, I was diagnosed with pink eye. But my mother knew something was wrong when she picked me up. She took me straight to the doctor.

The doctor couldn’t determine the cause of my illness. I spent almost two years on antibiotics and steroid drops, while my eyesight got worse. I lost almost all vision in the eye. Still, I did not have a diagnosis.

After two years, I began to see a corneal specialist, who attributed my condition to a repeat chickenpox infection that had attacked my eye. When I was 17, I had a cornea transplant that resulted in 64 stitches in my eye, of which 32 are permanent. As a result of the surgery, I was home schooled for three months, forcing me to give up extracurricular activities and leaving me feeling socially isolated.

Although it wasn’t available when I was a child, the varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine is now available and recommended for all children. A “catch-up” vaccine is recommended for any adolescent who was not vaccinated or has who never had chickenpox.

I know too well the dangers of not vaccinating and I am not willing to take that chance with my children’s health. I believe there is no reason to have a vaccine-preventable disease. It’s the one thing you can eliminate from your list of worries.

I still live with daily reminders of the perils of having a vaccine-preventable disease. I would urge any parent deciding about vaccination to talk to their doctor. Don’t just listen to media and news hype; really think about the consequences of not vaccinating. Why subject your child to dangers that can be avoided?

Adapted with permission from Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story by Rachel M. Cunningham, MPH; Julie A. Boom, MD; and Carol J. Baker, MD.