What Whooping Cough Feels Like

Once again, vaccination is in the spotlight.

Let me just say from the outset that I’m 100% in favour of vaccination – I’m had just about every jab there is (with the exception of the HPV vaccine for reasons which have been discussed with my doctor). In my opinion, vaccination saves lives.

I’ve never understood why parents choose not to vaccinate their children. And this is why: I had whooping cough as a child. It was fucking terrifying. And I don’t understand why parents wouldn’t try to prevent it in any way possible.

I guess I can sort of understand why parents may not vaccinate against ‘typical’ childhood diseases such as chicken pox and measles – until a few years ago, I always thought that they were just an itchy and annoying childhood disease. Now I know better, but I can understand that not everyone reads as much as I do (nor is everyone related to three nurses and a medical researcher – which is how I found out that chicken pox is a bit more serious for some people!) But that still doesn’t explain why some parents won’t vaccinate their children against diseases such as whooping cough, polio and diphtheria.

I got whooping cough when I was 10 years old. I’d been vaccinated but a girl in my grade 5 class hadn’t. She caught it and she brought it to school.

Thankfully, my whooping cough was pretty mild. During the day it felt like I had a mild case of the flu. However at night I’d be sleeping peacefully then suddenly lurch awake, unable to breathe. I’d sit up in bed unable to do anything but cough. Tiny, quiet, uncontrollable coughs would expel air from my lungs but I couldn’t inhale. I’d just keep coughing and coughing and coughing and I’d start to panic . My chest would feel like it was on fire, my eyes would burn, my head would throb. Sometimes my vision would cloud over and I would almost pass out.

What felt like minutes later, I would get that huge intake of air (the “whooping” sound) before the coughs started again. Eventually I’d vomit and suddenly the coughs would stop and I’d be able to breathe normally again. I’d be sweaty from the exertion and covered in sick but able to breathe in sweet, clean, cool air.

Air is under-rated. You don’t realise how important it actually is until you’re deprived of it.

The coughing fits would happen once or twice a night and after a week, they went away. That was a mild dose of whooping cough and I was a very healthy and active 10-year-old. Imagine if I hadn’t been vaccinated, or had been an elderly person with emphysema, or a newborn baby. Having had whooping cough, I can see how deadly it can be.

Vaccination, to me, is a no-brainer. I believe vaccination jabs should be given to every person on earth*. We have the tools to stop many horrible diseases and eradicate them completely – why aren’t we all using them?

 

{This post has been partly re-written and edited – the original version was published on Kiki & Tea in 2012.}

* Obviously there are people who, for legitimate medical purposes, can’t be vaccinated. They are the reason herd immunity is vitally important. But that is a topic for another time. 

Growing Up Racist

My father is a racist man. Like many things, that was my normal when I was growing up. It took awhile for me to understand that the things he said were wrong.

Y**k. B**nga. C**n. N***er. A**o. M***ey. C**ng. C**el. W*g.

I grew up listening to that language and thinking it was normal. Now I just feel sick thinking about it. I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Guilty.

Mostly I’m sorry. I’m sorry I thought those words were normal. I’m sorry I spoke them aloud. I’m sorry it took so long for me to realize how vile and cruel and disgusting those words are. I’m sorry those words hurt people.

As a child, even though those words were normal to me, there was this little nagging feeling that they were bad words. I couldn’t tell you why I thought they were bad words. They just felt naughty. I can only remember saying those words a couple of times (around home) – each time I felt like I’d sworn although I was never reprimanded for using them.

It took until I was 6- or 7-years-old to understand just how hurtful and bad those words were. I remember a boy in my Year 2 class at school calling my friend Alex one of those words on that list above. My first thought was a realization that I wasn’t the only one to know that word. My second thought was, “Is it actually a bad word?”

The answer came pretty quickly – Alex burst into tears and our teacher punished the other boy quite severely. (Being made to pick up rubbish during lunch and recess for three days straight plus writing a letter of apology to Alex.) It was my confirmation that those words were bad words. It still didn’t explain why Dad used them though.

Dad’s racism and sense of superiority (simply because of his skin colour) bothered me though (and still does). I questioned him about it when I was 10 or 11 – why did he use those words? He just smirked and said, “What else should I call them? Golliwogs?” I’m embarrassed to say I let the matter go. Disagreements or defiance against him usually resulted in being beaten with a leather belt.

These days, whenever he says a racist comment, he’s met with the full force of my sister and I – both of us hate racism. We challenge his beliefs. We try to make him understand that skin colour doesn’t make a person a bad driver, or stupid, or a terrorist. I doubt we’ll ever change him, but we will not sit by and let him sprout hateful comments.

Growing up with a racist father surprisingly didn’t affect who I made friends with as a child and teenager. I think back now and wonder why it didn’t. Why didn’t I become more like him? Did my non-racist mother have more of an influence than I give her credit for? Or maybe it’s because I just didn’t really care what colour skin people have? Perhaps it’s a combination of both? Somewhere along the way, I have learnt to not think like my father. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to be like him.

I don’t judge people based on the shape of their eyes, how dark or light their skin is or what country they were born in. The choices and decisions people make in life are what defines them as people. Race has nothing to do with it.

Another Bloody Destination Wedding

It’s been coming for awhile. First there was the excited text message, high-pitched squealy phone call and gushy FaceBook message to announce that they were engaged. Then there was the over-the-top engagement party complete with belly-dancers, DJ and expensive Moroccan finger-food. Now we have received the ‘Save-the-Date’ card.

And it’s another fucking destination wedding.

Thankfully this one isn’t in Switzerland. It’s in Dunsborough (a highly popular coastal town in WA’s south-west wine region for those inter-state and overseas readers). In December. In fact, it’s the first week of the school holidays.

Crap.

End-of-year summer school holidays means every town along the WA coast is jam-packed with kids (and their parents), dogs, caravans, overseas tourists and ice-cream van owners.

Crap.

So six months before the wedding, Husband and I are looking for somewhere to sleep for two nights in Dunsborough or the surrounding areas (but not too far away – midnight driving and unlit country roads makes me a bit uncomfortable). Last night we visited the websites of at least a dozen accommodation spots. All (well, those that weren’t already booked up) quoted above $350 a night. We need to stay for two nights. That’s over $700 to go to someone else’s wedding.

Crap.

Oh, did I mention that the wedding is on a Friday, so Husband has to take two days of annual leave to attend?

Crap.

And we have to go because, once again, it’s Husband’s family member and we’re already getting a reputation as “the mean boy and his horrible wife who don’t attend weddings.” (That might be because they’re never in Perth! Although that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone…) Dunsborough is only 3 hours away so we don’t mind driving down. We DO mind paying $700 for a hideous little room in a place that has NO facilities. (When I say “facilities” I’m not talking about a luxurious pool or health spa, I’m talking about things like bed linen and kitchen facilities!)

Crapping fucksticks.

So people – if you’re planning a wedding, and you want family/friends to attend and not be mighty pissed off with you then for the love of god DO NOT make it a destination wedding!!!