When my daughter was a baby, she caught rubella. At just seven months old, she was too young to have had her 12 month measles, mumps and rubella immunisation, so she wasn’t protected. It was terrible and frightening to see her suffering like that. I will never forget the big, blotchy red patches all over her little face & neck and how lethargic and upset she was. Even worse, I had been in contact with 3 pregnant friends who had held her and given her plenty of cuddles. These women were in various stages of pregnancy, as happens with friends sometimes. It was so exciting that we were all having babies at the same time – until I got my daughter’s diagnosis a few days later and realised that I could potentially have inflicted something terrible on them.
As a nurse, I was very conscious of the risk my daughter posed to pregnant women while she had the disease. Rubella in pregnancy can cause congenital rubella, which can lead to miscarriage and has potentially devastating lifelong repercussions for the foetus such as deafness, blindness, learning disabilities and heart problems. I had to call each of my pregnant friends and tell them that they could possibly have contracted this devastating disease. It was awful. I still have a knot in my stomach every time I think about those conversations. My friends all had to be tested for rubella and faced an agonising wait for the results. Luckily, thankfully, all of them tested negative. It was a real test of our friendship.
This experience has made me more passionate than ever about immunisation. Just one infection put so many people at risk: my daughter, my friends, and their unborn children. If everyone in our community was fully immunised, the chances of my daughter contracting the disease would have been much lower and we would all have been safer.