This is Donell. He lives in Zambia. He is a happy little 2 year old that is always smiling. His father would give his life for this little boy, and works very hard to be able to support him. They live in a neighborhood where healthcare is a luxury. Donell doesn't get regular checkups, or receive vaccinations on a regular schedule. This is not because of a personal choice that his parents have made for him, but because his family can't afford those things. He sees a Doctor only when he is sick and needs medical attention. The last time he saw a Doctor, was because he had a very high temperature, and a rash all over his body. It was the measles. This brave little boy spent two weeks in suffering in agony while his father only wished that he could do something to help his little boy. Measles are no joke, and can become even more serious if complications from the illness arise.
Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.) For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
In developing countries, where malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are common, measles has been known to kill as many as one out of four people. It is the leading cause of blindness among African children. It is estimated that in 2008 there were 164,000 measles deaths worldwide.
So what is next for this sweet little boy? Mumps? Rubella? Polio? whooping cough? What if his father could have prevented his son from getting the measles? Just by having him vaccinated... There are organizations, for example UNICEF working in Zambia trying to make this a reality. I hope that Donell and children like him are soon able to gain access to affordable healthcare and will never have to suffer with another preventable terrible childhood illness.
My family is struggling more than usual with finances right now. It's hard to put the stress aside and remember to be thankful for everything we have. My children might not get everything their little hearts desire, but they won't get the measles either. I am thankful that when my son was born, we were simply advised to get him vaccinated against all of these preventable childhood diseases. I didn't even consider not having him vaccinated. I would never wish the symptoms of these diseases on anyone. I can't even stand to see my children get a cold, much less such a serious disease with such a serious risk of deathly complications. I pray for the parents who have to watch their children suffer through these diseases. I don't know what I personally can do about it, but I'm going to start by hugging my healthy children and be thankful that measles is one thing that they will never have to experience.