I hope I've pulled myself together enough to write about what has disturbed my peace the past few days... See, this is the life of a parent with a special-needs child; it ain't never clean, it ain't never sanitized, it ain't never predictable and it ain't never heartbreak-free. The times my heart gets tortured, pierced, dragged into the mud... oh, I dare not count. But each experience mercifully ends with lessons learned, vision clarified, strength renewed, wounds healed or being healed. So it's good, it's all good, but still, I wouldn't wish these experiences on my worst enemy.
My relationship with my husband and life-partner O has been crucial to my fingertip-grip on sanity throughout times such as these. As is my relationship with God, Who knows that He also has a special-needs child in ME, and that I depend on Him to teach me, strengthen me and give me hope, just as B relies on us.
At these times, I've learned to force myself to reach out, to tap people who love me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, I'm not doing so okay here, can I borrow your shoulder for a while?" I say force, because it goes against everything inside me to admit that I hurt, that I need, that I rage, that I can't see very far ahead no matter how I try. And autism is a disease that not only affects children or individuals, but their families, as well. Autism isolates. Autism separates. Autism disconnects. There is a silent, impenetrable wall that goes up around a family with ASD from the moment of diagnosis. A wall of fear, of shame, of pain. A wall that needs to be torn down, brick by heavy brick, to free those inside from despair, to free them up to receive love from others, to free them enough to feel for others, as well.
Having learned this the hard way in the past, I had vowed to fight this deadly, isolating wall of silence by building a support group of loving friends around me-- people who don't pretend to know what I'm going through, who don't imagine that they know everything, who don't deluge me with solutions and logic, who don't even try to make me stop crying or hurting, but people who care, who listen, who know that I need to go through this anguish, who know that when the dust clears, I will still be standing. Battle-worn and wounded, perhaps, but on my feet, ready to move, ready to help others just as tired, confused and weary as I am. Take and receive. That's the cycle, that's how it goes.
So, sorry to dash whatever hopes you may have had, but it's not always triumphant, coherent, maturely-processed, inspirational pieces that you're gonna get from me here. I'm human--- only so but fully so--- and many times I need as much help (or more) as I'm typically willing to give in turn. When will people realize that parents of special-needs children have special needs themselves? My life as a special-needs parent is real, it's not all stained glass and roses, with its frequent ups and occasional downs; and when I'm up, I'm up, but when I'm down... well, I'm not gonna lie about it. Especially to myself. I know better than that, I hope.
Finally, what's been causing the crying bouts and earth-shattering tremors in my otherwise-peaceful life? Two letters sum it up: Hg.
Hg, or mercury, and all its compounds are useful but highly toxic to humans. I won't bore you with a lecture on all its uses and its health effects, which you can find in websites such as http://www.greenfacts.org/mercury/mercury-element.htm, anyway.
Last Friday, my younger son E was given chloramphenicol eye ointment for his mercifully-shortlived bout of conjunctivitis. Since eye ointment is infinitely harder to apply on a struggling toddler than eye drops, I asked O to arrange for a repeat prescription with our GP. He brought the eye drops home, but being the scientist that he is (O has a PhD in instrumentation and analytical science), he read the label before we administered it to E. I saw him frown as he read it, and he immediately went online to read medical and scientific journals-- something which, I hasten to add, only one person in this family does, by the way.
And then he turned to me and said, "Let's just use the ointment, luv. For some reason, these eye drops contain phenylmercuric nitrate, which is a toxic compound."
What?!, I exclaimed. What kind of moron puts mercuric compounds in eye drops? Didn't they know that there are gazillions of blood vessels in the eye? Why put toxins in the eyes, from which they get into the bloodstream? Didn't these people watch CSI?, I thought.
"They use them as antiseptics and preservatives for eye drops and other medicines and vaccines," said O, looking worried.
I patted him on the shoulder and said, Good for E, his Tatay is a chemist. Well done! So we kept using the ointment till we could get a mercury-free brand of eye drops, and for me, that was the end of that.
But for O, it wasn't. Something he had read disturbed him. He pored over more medical journals online, and I knew he was onto something. But he never spoke a word.
That Sunday, on our way to Mass, we were talking with a friend about autism, and O sort of let slip that he had come across an online article which linked mercury in childhood vaccines to the growing epidemic of autism and developmental disorders. He had hesitated about telling me sooner, because he was concerned about how it might affect me. And besides, he said, he still needed to read it in more detail, as he had just skimmed through it the first time.
The next day being bank holiday Monday, he had time to do just that. Halfway through the article, he turned to me, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Luv," he said. "I'm angry. I don't know what to do about it, I'm so enraged! Nagngingitngit ako... "
And this is what he told me: That mercuric compounds (also called thimerosals) had been, until a few years ago, widely and generally used as antiseptics/preservatives in vaccines and other medicine, especially (but not limited to) those multi-dose vials. That big US drug companies had labored to cover everything up, despite the fact that mercury had been directly linked to autism, speech delays, ADHD and other developmental disorders. And these pharmaceutical bigwigs decided, simply decided, to keep this vital bit of information from the rest of the world --- doctors, parents, everyone--- for fear of massive lawsuits (which they would most probably lose) and in order to let them dispose of all their mercury-laden stock.
From birth, B had had all his shots given to him on-time, according to the Philippine immunization schedule, which is-- surprise, surprise-- based on the US immunization model. Did we hug him, restrain him and say "it's gonna be okay" with each jab, as the unseen thimerosals built up steadily inside his tiny body? Mercury, like most toxins, bioaccumulate, which means they aren't flushed out of our systems when we ingest them. They just stay there, and build up with each new dose. Did it reach a critical dose, an activation point which tripped B's neurons and brain functions, triggering his autism and all its related dysfunctions? Each individual responds differently to toxins, some are more vulnerable or perhaps genetically predisposed than others. Who knew what the repeated mercury doses could do to trigger B's autism? Who knew that some people were monstrous enough to put toxins in children's vaccines? Don't we all take for granted that immunizations are supposed to make our children healthy, not sick? That what the needle sticks into our children are good stuff, not poison? Don't we trust drug-makers and their ethics, just as we do doctors and nurses? Who knew that this could happen to us and our children?
Let me tell you who knew: THEY did. They knew, and they sat on their hands, waiting for their faulty stock to run out before they did anything about it. They knew, and they phased it out, instead of recalling their products from the market. They knew, and they kept it from us. They knew, and they lied. THEY KNEW.
So now I want to tell anybody who can listen. Those who have babies or young children still in the process of being immunized. Those who know people who do. Those who care about their nephews, nieces, grandchildren or pre-school/grade school students. I want to shout it out, broadcast it, scream it out at the top of my lungs! Because I don't want any other parent to go through what we have gone through, good or bad, in our fight against ASD. Because every child deserves to be protected from selfish, human greed.
I'm not suggesting that we stop having our children immunized, no! That's very irresponsible and very illogical, as humanity would then be wiped out by disease long before autism is finally eradicated from the face of the planet.
What I propose is that, when someone brings their child in for a flu shot or any kind of immunization, any jab, any medication, just politely ask to SEE THE LABEL of the vial containing the drugs/medicine/vaccine and check that it doesn't contain thimerosals, mercuric compounds or merthiolates. And if it does, to request for another brand of the drug/medicine/vaccine, a thimerosal-free one, even if it costs more, even if it is in single dose form.
The Philippines, being a Third World country, is a great candidate for faulty-drug-dumping by sneaky multi-national drug companies, so be wise. Know what's in the bottle before it's jabbed into someone you love. And it goes for all food products or beverages, as well. Check the labels, ask smart questions, think! If they duped a chemist and a chemical engineer into thinking it was safe for their son to be injected with hidden thimerosals which could and did trigger his autism... well, just don't be as stupid and as thoughtless as we were. It would mean more time or even more money shelled out on your part, but it would be totally worth it.
Because it would cost you more in the end, autism. And I'm not talking about the money you spend on doctors and therapists, or developmental toys, tools, books or materials. I'm talking about a child's future. His potential. His parents' heartache and pain.
Tell your spouse, your siblings, your friends about this. Tell them about B. Tell them about thimerosals. Email them this post or link to this blog, if you wish. But tell them, please.
The bottom line? It was Greed. Disgusting, inhuman, immoral, dollar-hungry, ugly, monstrous Greed.
That's what helped make my son autistic.
That's what stole from my son his right to be normal.
That's what kidnapped my son from us, and guess what?
We're still paying ransom, up till now.