In the mid-1990s, I was in private practice as a nurse-midwife in Aroostook County. During that time I became very ill with pertussis (whooping cough).

At one point, my airway closed off completely and I couldn’t breathe. I nearly lost consciousness. That was the closest I have ever come to believing I was going to die. A short time later, a patient came in complaining of a severe cough.

Her toddler was also ill and was being treated for asthma with no improvement. Because of my own experience, I recognized a pertussis cough and advised her to take her child back to his pediatrician for treatment. The child tested positive for pertussis, sparking a minor public health emergency, since he had three older siblings attending a conservative parochial school in which almost no one was immunized. All of the children at the school, their families, and everyone who had been in the doctor’s office when the sick child was there had to be treated with antibiotics to prevent a potentially deadly disease outbreak.

Those children are all adults now, and none of them died of pertussis because I was able to recognize a characteristic cough that most care providers have never heard. Unvaccinated children are not only in deadly danger themselves, they are a menace to newborns, the elderly and anyone who is immunocompromised or in poor health. It is not a personal choice, it is a personal responsibility.

If you love your children, vaccinate them.

Barbara Miller


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